By Heather Clower
The Parsons Advocate
Lines were formed past the side walk at St. Paul’s church the opening day of the 2018 Christmas Toy Drive awaiting the doors to open. The first day alone there were one hundred and thirty- four children served, over half of what was served the entire weeklong event just two short years prior. “This year was all about the giving and the outpouring of love”, stated Marie Barr, one of the leading volunteers for the program. This year, the grand total served was three hundred and seventy – five children, seventy-five more youth than the year prior.
While no family in need has been or ever will be turned away, almost all of the toys and items went to families inside of Tucker County. Over the time this event has been going on, there has been donations come from several sources, not only from other counties but from as far as Pittsburg, Pa. and Maryland. There were anonymous donors who mailed out coloring books to the church for the program as well. “It takes everybody and the blessings come from outside the county, too”, explained Barr. She recalled an individual from Lost Creek who found out about the program and collected monetary donations from others around her area and took those funds and purchased items on the list noted as most needed and donated those to the toy drive.
This year the event was such a success thanks to the nearly forty volunteers who helped in so many ways. From cleaning the donations, installing batteries, mending doll clothes, and assisting shoppers, it was thanks to them and those who donated to the cause making Christmas possible for so many families. “Everybody was so involved and I loved seeing that”, said Barr. There were a few volunteers who arrived stating they had seen the article in The Parsons Advocate which moved them to reach out and help at the drive. “I believe the article in the paper is why our numbers grew so much”, she said.
Not only did the number of shoppers and volunteers increase dramatically, more local entities generously pitched in this year offering more drop off locations and holding facilities. Steven’s Realty and the Tucker County Extension Office have always offered a lending hand, but this year Community Action, Parsons City Hall, and Thomas City Hall offered their location as a drop off option to make it easier for those who wanted to donate. Parsons City Hall collected items for several weeks and stored them for the drive which was a huge asset to the amount of donations received.
While some wanted to volunteer but maybe could not in the same capacity, there was an outpouring of love from a few individuals who stopped by and brought meals to the workers several times throughout the week. “I am so thankful this community responded and are such givers”, credited Barr to the residents of Tucker County.
There was one volunteer that really stood out this year. Little Nelson Herron, son of Nikki Nelson and Josh Herron, came in with his Grandparents Lois and Terry Nelson, to see the toy drive. She told Barr how her grandson had went through all of his toys, took them to his mom to help clean them so his grandparents could bring him and his toys down to donate. Nelson took such pride in setting out all of his donations in their designated spots and proceeded to ask Barr for a “tour” of the Toy Drive. Barr took him around throughout all of the tables and showed him where each type of items were displayed and showed him where the toys were being worked on and cleaned. “This was definitely a highlight for this year”, smiled Barr.
At the end of the shopping week, Amy Owens along with several volunteers with Community Action came to the church and loaded vans with whatever items were left to donate to those in need through their program. Yet another way the drive reached even more families than tallied in the numbers.
Due to the massive incline in children served, volunteers, and donations, discussion has already began for how to take this project to the next level in 2019. “I look for this program to be around for a long time and continue to serve the families in and around Tucker County”, concluded another volunteer. “Helping others is really what Christmas is all about, from Jesus’ birth to save us from our sins, to the Christmas Toy Drive to help others in their time of need”.