Toys for Tots wraps up 2012
By Lisa DeNeal Post-Tribune correspondent December 26, 2012 12:08PM
Volunteer Stephanie Pugh of Munster (right) fills a wish list for a 7- and 8-year-old during the annual Toys for Tots distribution at the Genesis Center in Gary, Ind., on Dec. 19, 2012. | Stephanie Dowell~Sun-Times Media
Victory Life Christian Center held its 10th annual Marines Toys for Tots Giveaway Dec. 19 at the Genesis Convention Center, providing 600 registered families from Gary, Hammond, East Chicago, Whiting, Griffith and parts of Merrillville with toys for 2,500 children.
“We ran out of the provided 50 Marines Toys for Tots drop boxes because so many were filled with donations that we had to get extra boxes or donors brought their own boxes filled with toys,” assistant coordinator and Victory member Virginia Gentry said. Thirty-one businesses and organizations from throughout Northwest Indiana donated boxes filled with toys and winter items.
As people outside wrapped a line around half of the center, those lined up inside calmly waited for volunteers stationed in front of doors leading to the Indiana hall to call their names, check the list with the recipients’ identification and hand them a bag of toys.
Inside the Indiana Hall, volunteer elves hurried alongside piles of donations with bags of various sizes to fill with a toy, a board game and something extra for one or more children ranging in age from infancy to teens.
Victory Life Christian Center’s pastor, the Rev. Edward Sims, is the event’s founder. He barks orders for the volunteers to pick up the pace with filling the bags after hearing about the long line.
“One board game per family! It’s called family game night for a reason,” he said.
Sims added that each year the goal is to make sure every child in the registered families receives a toy for Christmas.
“There’s so much need in the region and we are just trying to do what we can to ease some of the stress,” Sims said. He admitted that on occasion he’s thought “this is my last year doing this.
“But you see we are back at it.”
His daughter Kaja Sims, 14, is volunteering while recovering from torn ligaments in her right knee. She quickly hops on crutches wrapped with leopard print material and large dark pink bows and helps select what goes in which bag.
“It’s pretty cool for dad to help other families and exciting for me because it teaches me more about giving in the community,” she said.
Melinda Talley, of Gary, is grateful for Victory Christian Life and the Marines Toys for Tots program.
She said this was her first time being a recipient as she held on to a bag of gifts for her 11-year-old son.
“It’s been hard this year; I’ve been sick and a lot of other stuff’s been going on,” she said while wiping tears from her face. “I appreciate these people for doing this. They did not have to do this for us.”