By Rev. Dave Heller
Preparations have been underway since May and continue. While it may seem like a long time until Christmas, the elves working at the Columbus Baptist Association are continuing to prepare for the 10thAnnual Toy Store.
Last year, the Toy Store served 192 families with some 563 children. Here’s how the Toy Store works.
Families in need are referred by their child’s teacher, their pastor, their DSS worker, the Sheriff’s Office, the Living Hope Pregnancy Care Center, and other organizations throughout the county. This need is verified and only a partnering organization can refer a family to the Toy Store. Families may not refer themselves.
Once a family is referred, an invitation letter is sent to the family, asking them to call and make an appointment to shop at the Toy Store. On the day of their appointment, the family parents (no children) or guardians come and shop for brand new toys at 10 cents on the dollar. So, if a toy costs $30 at Walmart, it costs $3 at the Toy Store. This allows the parents/guardians the dignity of saying they bought toys for Christmas for their children.
Once the shopping is completed, the parents/guardians will speak with a counselor, who will share the Gospel with them. They will also get other important information that may refer them to different helping agencies throughout the county.
Here’s where we need the community’s help: We need you to collect brand new, unwrapped toys! Collect them at your office, your church, your school, your civic group, anywhere you wish – just collect them! You can’t imagine how many toys are needed for this type of ministry. Last year, we purchased over $34,000 in brand new toys to help these 563 children! The deadline for turning in the new, unwrapped toys is Wednesday, Dec. 2. Toys may be dropped off at the Columbus Baptist Association, 208 S. Thompson Street, Whiteville, Monday-Wednesday, 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. If you have a large collection, just call us at 910.642.2155, and we will be happy to come by and pick them up.
With all of the job loss and cutbacks that the pandemic has brought, this year I am sure there will be a greater need. Let’s come together as a community and help our friends and neighbors who may be having a difficult time this year providing Christmas for their kids. I know you will receive a blessing for participating. As a matter of fact, if you would like to volunteer to work at the Toy Store this year, just give us a call at the above listed number. We would be happy to share with you how you can help families have a Merry Christmas this year!
Dr. David B. Heller is associational mission strategist for the Columbus Baptist Association