Sorting Toys For Distribution -Photo by Kelly Gee

Sorting Toys For Distribution
-Photo by Kelly Gee

Did you ever wonder about the children on the Angel Tree? What happens to the toys brought in by the Toy Runners? How do gifts get to the children? Well, here is the true story of one family and what the Angel Tree Christmas meant to them.

A local family whose parents both grew up here was facing really hard times a couple of years ago. The dad had been laid off the week of Christmas the year before and had been unable to find work. Mom tried to work part time, but with 3 young girls, it was tough. They fell behind on their bills and mortgage and were in serious jeopardy of losing their home. The financial problems strained their marriage and their home life. Just before the house was foreclosed on in early December, the extended family pooled their resources and met the mortgage, paid some of the bills. Afterwards they found that nobody had money left to celebrate Christmas. The mom told her daughters, ages 6, 10 and 14 that Christmas was a game and they could not afford to play this year. She explained there would be no gifts and few decorations, but they would try to be happy just being together. The youngest cried, but the older ones tried to understand. It was a tough time.

A teacher at school knew of their difficulties and contacted the Adopt-An-Angel coordinator. The teacher and the girls’ grandmother put a short list together of things the girls wanted and a few things they really needed.  The magic of the Angel tree started to work. Some jackets and clothes, new shoes and school supplies were purchased, wrapped and ready for giving on Christmas morning. Volunteers worked with Marie Hawes and the Toy Run group to select gifts especially for the girls. Bikes just their size, Barbies for the younger, games and books, toys and other gifts were selected from lists personalized for the girls needs and wishes, and tagged with a number identifying the recipients. The parents picked up the gifts a few days before Christmas and looked forward to the surprise of Christmas morning.
On Christmas morning, the family was together at the grandmother’s POC home. When the girls were in bed they put out gifts and toys and presents more than the modest family had ever seen, even on a less difficult year. When morning came and the girls entered their grandmother’s living room, they were surprised and overwhelmed.  They expected a small, slight Christmas. Here were presents with their names and toys they had only dreamed of under the tree. They asked in chorus, “Is this for us?” Jackets that fit, new tennis shoes and cute girly shirts in just the right size were wrapped and then unwrapped with glee. The oldest found a bike with her name attached and the littlest was rather sad. Then, just as the baby was tearing up over no bike for her, she saw her own perfectly sized bike tucked in the corner. The delight the teen took in her selfie stick from Santa was extra special, and her sisters found just what they wished for included in the morning. While their parents looked on in awe and their grandparents dried tears of joy, the girls had the best Christmas ever. It was a bright spot in a dark year for the young family.
The following year life was oh so different. Dad had returned to work and was making ends meet plus a little. Mom required some professional help in coping following the family’s struggle, but she was getting healthy and whole. The girls were growing up fast and found themselves busy with school and other activities. The family had a ‘regular’ Christmas with a few special gifts and lots of love from family and extended family. The parents and grandparents reminisced about the special Christmas provided by Adopt-An-Angel and Toy Run and felt grateful for the blessing. They were unable to buy for an angel on the tree themselves, but partnered with some family members to help someone else. The girls never asked why their Christmas was small, they didn’t wonder why their presents were fewer. They spoke of the special Christmas last year, and counted it a Christmas surprise almost like a miracle. They seemed happy and grateful with their few gifts and family time together.

People ask where do all those toys go. They reach over 2000 children in our area, beginning with our own hometown kids in need. Foster children, children whose parents may be hospitalized, in treatment or incarcerated, children in group homes and children in need because of life’s circumstances will receive toys, games, bikes, skateboards, fishing rods, sports equipment, books, art supplies and other gifts because of the generosity of the Toy Run donors and the organization and planning of teachers, social workers, nonprofit agencies, volunteers and others who collect, sort, shop and distribute the donated toys. Many children will benefit one year only, others may benefit multiple years, but the goal is that whatever the circumstances children who need help will receive it.

Separate but in cooperative effort, the POC Adopt-An-Angel Project provides the practical and necessary gifts in addition to the toys to children in POC. Jackets and sweats, shoes and socks, new shirts and jeans that are long enough are purchased by elf volunteers who select an angel from the tree at POC Hardware and shop specific to size, favorite things and special requests from each child. Those items are wrapped and given to the parents anonymously to be given to their children on Christmas. Volunteers who shop for an angel are given an identifying number, and each child’s identity is protected. Families receive respectful help to enable their child to have a nice Christmas. Some families report putting a few of the generous gifts back to save for a birthday. Some families report helping an angel from the tree in years after receiving help themselves.

So, yes, our angels are blessed beyond measure. We have the donations and volunteers to meet the need and families find a Christmas under their tree that they could never have dreamed about. Many times, the blessing of Adopt-An-Angel/Toy Run Christmas comes along when the time seems so bleak for the family. Just ask the grandmother who shared her granddaughters’ story with tears in her eyes and gratitude in her heart.

Volunteers Unload Toys from Toy Run Boats -Photo by Fred Carr

Volunteers Unload Toys from Toy Run Boats
-Photo by Fred Carr

Photo by Kelly Gee

Photo by Kelly Gee

14th Annual Toy Run Boaters arrived at The Inn at Clarks. Locals were waiting to unload the boat-loads of toys. -Photo by Calvin McIntyre

14th Annual Toy Run
Boaters arrived at The Inn at Clarks. Locals were waiting to unload the boat-loads of toys.
-Photo by Calvin McIntyre

Thank You, Toy Run!

Twenty-five were planned but seventeen boats made the cold run into Port O’ Conner Saturday morning with tons of toys and bright Christmas spirit loaded on board. Even though they were cold, wet, windblown and hungry, they pitched right in and unloaded toys before returning to their boats to string lights, blow up Christmas characters and prepare for the lighted boat parade. There were plenty of volunteers on hand to help unload as community people, sheriff’s’ department and others got right to work. Box trailers were filled with bags and bags of toys and trailers were loaded with bikes and trikes and scooters. The smallest elf helped his dad unload lots of bikes off their boat and then helped load the trailer. The generous 4-year-old was determined to be a part no matter how cold he was. Early the next morning many of those same volunteers and many others met at the Community Center Pavilion to sort and distribute the toys to Christmas kids in need of those toys.
-Kelly Gee

Little Helper with the Toy Run Bicycles -Photo by Kelly Gee

Little Helper with the Toy Run Bicycles
-Photo by Kelly Gee

Photo by Calvin McIntyre

Photo by Calvin McIntyre

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