There are more local groups providing toys to children this year than there is room to mention all of them, but following is a sampling of groups in the area helping Santa spread Christmas cheer.
The Riverside Toys for Kids program held three roadblocks in past weeks to raise money for purchasing toys and for the Imagination Library of the Pell City School District where many Riverside children attend school.
Before the final roadblock, held Saturday, the program had raised about $3,000.
“That number is down from previous years, but we are using new guidelines this year that limited the number of people who qualified to a manageable number,” Toys for Kids Board of Directors member Tammy Dorough said. “With this number of children, I am very confident we will be able to purchase a nice Christmas for them.”
Pickup time for toys and clothing is from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 23, at Riverside Town Hall. For more information, call Riverside Town Hall at 205-338-7692.
The Childersburg Toys for Tots program was not funded by any organization this year so it was up to the volunteer organizers to go out and find some donations.
Program volunteer Janie Green said angel trees were set up at the Rainwater Library and Pam’s Hair Heaven for people to choose a child and make a donation.
“We usually get around 395 to 400 children who need gifts,” Green said. “This year we had more babies than it seems like we’ve ever had before. I believe we had 193 kids ages 1 to 3 this year.”
Numerous local businesses, organizations and schools made donations, she said. “We also had a lot of individuals who just went out and bought a gift, like a bike, or picked out an angel.”
The Childersburg Toys for Tots program has been operating for more than 20 years, according to Green. Gifts will be given out today at the Childersburg Armory.
The need for Christmas gifts has also been apparent throughout Talladega County, Debbie Rodgers, executive director of the Talladega County chapter of The Salvation Army, said.
“In the Talladega County area, we have over 200 children on a waiting list, but right now around 1,100 children will be getting Christmas presents,” Rogers said.
The Talladega County chapter has partnered with the Toys for Tots initiative this year to raise money for gifts locally and across the country.
The money raised from The Salvation Army bell ringers and kettles helps fund the Toys for Tots initiative as well as many of the other projects of The Salvation Army. Rodgers said, despite the poor economy, the kettle program has done well this year.
The new Pell City Civitan Club took over the city’s Toys for Children program and the Float Yer Boat Regatta fundraiser this year and has managed to keep them going without a hitch.
“Our organization is community-service minded, so we didn’t hesitate when we were asked to take over Toys for Children. Everyone pulled together and did a fantastic job,” Civitan Club President Jacque Owen said.
The club has already raised well over $10,000 this year, which will help 550 children. Owen said First Baptist kindergarten, Coosa Cable and Logan Martin Square Dance Club raised toys and money.
Members of Cropwell Baptist Church knitted scarves and hats to donate. Duran Junior High School raised close to $600 and Williams Intermediate School raised $450. On Friday Pell City Walmart donated $2,000 to the effort.
Owen said the club is already looking forward to next year’s Toys for Children by holding a silent auction for a football and helmet autographed by Auburn University football coach Gene Chizik.
Children are also getting into the act of giving. For instance the Houston Elementary School Honor Society in Talladega collected toys for less fortunate children as one of its December projects.
“It just makes you feel good all over,” sixth-grader Julius Jackson said.
Fourth-grader Ma’Kerria McKinney said, “When you help someone, it makes your Christmas more merry.”
The Honor Society presented the toys to Talladega Family Services on Dec. 14. Club sponsor Pat Harris said the club members are looking forward to doing the same fundraiser next year.
Lincoln held a Toys for Tykes program for the first time this year.
“We had several recent large donations of toys and money which has put us where we need to be for this Christmas,” Lincoln police records clerk Lin Estes said. “Things are tight everywhere due to the economy. We were short of where we needed to be to help more than 100 children this year, but our local businesses and individuals have made all the difference.”
The town’s Pilot Travel Center was able to purchase more than $5,000 worth toys as its contribution thanks to customers purchasing $1 wall decorations in the Truckers for Tots program.
Estes said this was the first year for the Toys for Tykes program, and she hopes it will continue in future years. The pickup time will be from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 23, at the Lincoln Police Department.
Last but not least, the Fraternal Order of Police Coosa Valley Lodge 8 continued its Shop with a Cop program this year for children in south Talladega County.
Lodge president Walt Smith said, “This year there were 164 applications. Out of that we have to look at the ones we feel are the most beneficial and select however many we can support. It’s a heart-rending process because you’d like to be able to help them all, but you can’t.”
Approximately 50 children got a chance to go shopping at Walmart in Sylacauga with a law enforcement officer or someone associated with the FOP for their Christmas presents.
The FOP raised the money through a fundraiser held at The Tavern on U.S. 280. Smith said The Tavern has been associated with the Shop with a Cop program for most of the 17 years it has been in existence.