Toys for Tots brings Christmas joy to countyBy MARLAN JONES,
The Marine Corps Toys for Tots campaign has begun in Mendenhall and Magee. The campaign started in October and will last until December 24.
Last year Toys for Tots was able to provid gifts to over 400 children. The event was coordinated by Zeta Phi Beta Rho Iota Zeta Sorority, with support from the City of Mendenhall, the Mendenhall Area Chamber of Commerce, and others.
The event was hosted at the Mendenhall Armory. Several children and their parents gathered at the armory and volunteers escorted each child one by one onto a floor full of toys. Deonka Mazie, Toys for Tots local area coordinator, said, “The process is organized chaos at first, but it’s all worth it to see the children smile.”
Toys for Tots is a national program which is sponsored by the US Marine Corp. The mission of the program is to collect new, unwrapped toys. The collection usually begins during the month of October and lasts through December. These toys are then distributed as Christmas gifts to less fortunate children in communities who conduct a campaign.
The objective of Toys for Tots in addition to helping the less fortunate experience the joy of Christmas is to play an active role in the development of the nation’s most valuable resources, and to unite all members of local communities in a common cause.
Mazie explained that over 21,000 children in Mississippi come from families who are considered low income or receive some form of aid. She said, “We reach out to them and make sure that they have something for Christmas. More importantly, so they know that Christmas is not about receiving a gift, but about being a gift.”
Mazie serves as the coordinator for Copiah, Simpson, Lincoln, Lawrence, and Yazoo counties, and the program is sponsored by the Youth for Change Ministries. Mazie said community support is imperative to the success of Toys for Tots. She said, “It is very much needed. We need to have the support of local organizations to help supply the needs, and inform us of the needs of the public.”
A successful campaign takes a lot of effort. Mazie explained that children are able to sign up through their local schools and daycares. She said the only required information is a name, address, phone number and email. Parents will also be able to sign up their children online by visiting toysfortots.org. Mazie said, “The children get to come in, take a picture with Santa and pick out three gifts.” She affirmed that all of the gifts were new and inspected for safety. This campaign serves mostly younger children, but Mazie revealed that her area also provides gifts for children up to age 17.
Mazie said that two locations in Simpson County will be conducting campaigns. Gifts will be distributed in Magee at Disciples of Christ Church on December 8 from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. On December 20, the Mendenhall campaign will distribute gifts once again at the Mendenhall Armory beginning at 9 a.m. Mazie said gifts for younger children will be distributed in the morning and others in the afternoon.
For more information about how to get involved contact Gloria Smith at 601-466-1023. Smith will serve as the point of contact for Magee during the Marine Corp Toys for Tots campaign. Lillie Hardy will serve as the point of contact for Mendenhall and can be reached at 601-847-4018.
Rho Iota Zeta Site Coordinator Lillie Hardy explained that her sorority was encouraged by Mayor Todd Booth to look into bringing the program to Mendenhall. Hardy said that instead of adopting a single family they decided to adopt all of the children in need around the Mendenhall area.
Peoples Bank, PriorityOne Bank, Fred’s, Dollar General, Family Dollar, Simpson County School District Office, Mendenhall Police Department, Mendenhall City Hall, You Nailed It, Lighthouse Community Outreach, Mendenhall Junior High, and Rho Iota Zeta Chapter will all assist with collecting and distributing gifts and making the campaign a success. Hardy said that people are invited to drop off gifts at these locations. If any other businesses or organizations would like to get involved as a drop off point or contribute in other ways they would need to contact Hardy.
Hardy said, “We want all of the community to get involved and help make this Christmas joyous for these children whose parents may not be able to.” Hardy said she is excited to be able to bring Christmas in the Park to the children of Mendenhall. She also mentioned that the Mendenhall Junior High Student Council will be serving as Santa’s helpers this year to assist children with picking gifts.
In order for these plans to come to fruition the help of the community is needed. Mazie highlighted her request of the community to donated new unwrapped toys to and of the drop off sites. She also asked that bikes be considered as donation items if possible. Any monetary donations can be made to any of the local coordinators.
Plans to provide a successful Christmas for even more children have been set in motion. Mazie said, “Thank everyone for their support. Keep us covered in prayer and keep on giving.”