Midstate agencies wrapping up Christmas toy distribution

alopez@macon.comDecember 23, 2013 

Needy children in the midstate are receiving toys for Christmas this year thanks to several agencies that collect and distribute them.

Collectively, the three major organizations operating in Middle Georgia are helping thousands with Christmas toys, but they also are seeing donation shortages for children in some age groups.

And in the case of the Salvation Army of Central Georgia, which helps children and families with its angel tree program, donations to its iconic red kettle program are down significantly for the second year in a row.

Donations to the Salvation Army’s red kettles are down $62,000 from last year, said Maj. Alan Hill, area commander.

“That’s going to really make it difficult for us to run some of the programs we’ve run,” Hill said.

The red kettle donations fund the Salvation Army’s emergency shelters, its family services, social services, rent assistance and youth character-building program, among others, he said.

The goal for this year was $150,000 from the kettles, Hill said, or about what was raised last year. But with Christmas Eve being the last day of the drive, it looks like the organization will be tens of thousands of dollars short.

Faring better, the Salvation Army’s angel tree program succeeded in its goal of giving Christmas assistance to 2,000 children in nine Middle Georgia counties.

The program, which asked residents to “adopt” a low-income child’s name from trees placed throughout the community, distributed gifts Thursday.

Through Kids Yule Love, a charity started by Bibb County Commissioner Joe Allen in 1986, 2,500 kids are receiving toys this year.

“We probably had about 300 more kids this year than we had last year,” said Diane Allen, Joe’s wife and the charity’s chief financial officer.

Though most of the gifts have been distributed, Allen said the organization is having a hard time fulfilling requests from children ages 11 and 12.

People can still help by dropping off toys at their local fire department, Allen said, where Kids Yule Love volunteers have been picking up donations every day.

Kids Yule Love is helping children in 12 Middle Georgia counties. In Bibb, the Division of Family and Children Services has been handling distribution.

Monday, volunteers for the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots program in Warner Robins were wrapping up distributing toys to the nearly 800 families that signed up with them.

“We’ve helped double what we did last year,” said Wendy Chadwell, Houston County coordinator.

This year, toy donations were in short supply for girls ages 8-12 and infants, Chadwell said, but coordinators in Peach and Laurens counties were able to make up for the shortage.

“They helped us out tremendously in a pinch,” Chadwell said.

Besides helping children from families who signed up, Toys for Tots will be conducting surprise toy distributions at a few low-income neighborhoods in Houston County.

Every year for the past several years, Chadwell said, the organization has partnered with law enforcement and emergency services to go into these low-income neighborhoods on Christmas Eve and distribute toys, one for every child they find.

Tuesday, four Houston sheriff’s units will be joined by two Georgia State Patrol units, a fire truck and a trailer full of toys in making the run.

The neighborhoods being targeted, however, are a closely guarded secret.

“We’ve already had phone calls this year to the sheriff’s department, saying, ‘Hey do y’all know where they’re going this year?’’’ Chadwell said.

In Bibb County, Toys for Tots requests are distributed by the Salvation Army. Chadwell wants to emphasize that money and items donated stay in the county where they were received.

“Our donations have increased, but our requests increased also,” Chadwell said. “There’s a lot more families that are in need this year, but I think the community has recognized that and been very gracious with their giving.”

The Salvation Army is requesting for people to help the agency make up for this year’s drop in red kettle donations by mailing contributions to P.O. Box 13386, Macon, GA 31208. For more information on Kids Yule Love, visit www.kidsyulelove.com. For more information on Toys for Tots, visit www.toysfortots.org.

To contact writer Andres David Lopez, call 744-4382.

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