Toy drive-thru helps thousands of kids

Posted at 12:23 PM, Dec 19, 2016
and last updated 2016-12-19 13:23:59-05

Better than any red stocking – black plastic bags will unlock Christmas joy when families head to Open Door Mission.

 “They receive a holiday food pantry box. They receive diapers because our [Channel] 94.1 Diaper Drive is so successful,” Candace Gregory, president and CEO of Open Door House. “And then, of course, what they're really here for is a toy bag.

The annual toy drive, known as Project Santa, operates like a drive-thru but for a holiday pick-up.

For nearly three decades, Gregory says the hand-up helps working poor families.

On Monday, the rescue mission will serve 4,200 children for families who pre-registered, ensuring each child will have something to unwrap come Christmas Day. The next day, Gregory says roughly another 1,800 children will also receive something.

This year, nearly 70 percent of families who pre-registered are first-timers, Gregory says.

In a warehouse, volunteers call out either boy or girl, followed by an age group. Shortly after, another retrieves a big, black plastic bag matching the call and runs it to a vehicle where a parent waits for it.

Because of this toy drive, Christmas is the one day families don't have to think about their financial hardships.

 “I just think it's overwhelming. It's just wonderful. It's just a wonderful experience to be able to give back to the community,” says Dawn Stephens, a volunteer who’s also with her son.

Bad weather on Saturday forced the rescue mission to postpone it for Monday. With the cold snap still lingering, volunteers are putting some warmth back into the atmosphere.

 “After seeing it was postponed and they needed to have volunteers for the day, I was able to. It was my day off, so no reason not to,” says Jeff Hicks.

The drive-thru simple. The transaction quick.

Struggling families can show up with nothing and leave with almost everything they’ll need to make this Christmas merry after all.