Community makes sure 600 children will get gifts
By Catharin Shepard
Published in News on December 23, 2009 1:46 PM
Toy collector Roland Converse, left, and Operation Transition volunteer Belinda Carraway sort through boxes of donated toys at the group's second annual toy drive for needy children.
When Operation Transition reached out to the community for last-minute help with the group's toy drive for needy children, people in Goldsboro and far beyond responded in a big way.
Last Friday, with days to go before the toy giveaway, the non-profit group was short by more than 400 toys for the 675 children signed up with the program.
But in the end, Operation Transition organizer Mary Mosley got her Christmas miracle -- and then some.
"We got over ... I haven't even finished counting, they're still coming in. We had about 800 by the time I stopped counting, and they're still coming," she said.
Thanks to fire departments, police departments, churches, friends and families, Toys for Tots, AT&T and one local toy collector who donated more than $3,000 of toys from his own collection, hundreds of children will have something under the tree to dream about on Christmas Eve.
That would not have happened this year for Lakeisha Thompson's children without the generosity of others, the mother of three said.
"Single momma, three girls and not working. I had sat them down and told them they may not get anything. When I found out about the program, I signed up, but I didn't tell my kids, so Christmas, they'll be excited," she said.
Groups, organizations and individuals both locally based and far away worked hard to support Operation Transition's goal. Word of the toy giveaway's need spread quickly, and phone calls starting coming in from other states, Ms. Mosley said.
"Diapers came in UPS from Kentucky. Pampers came in. Money came in from Louisiana. I mean people from all over. Family members contacted other family members and they reached back to Goldsboro to help. It was such a blessing," she said.
The lines were so long Tuesday as more than 400 families showed up at the Herman Park Center to pick up the toys for their children, the group set up a waiting room across the hall from a Santa's Workshop where volunteers bagged and sorted toys for each family.
Toy collector Roland Converse was one of the people up to his elbows in stuffed bears and Barbie dolls, many of which were collector's items he had kept preserved in pristine condition for years.
"I've been praying about it, and wondering what I should do. I've had some on eBay and I've sold some over the Internet, and sold some in garage sales, and I felt that was the thing to do to help the city," Converse said.
He also took some of his collection to Seymour Johnson Air Force Base to help with a program there, he added.
"It's been just awesome, seeing the parents and how well they were behaved, and they didn't mob us, and the volunteers, how great they did. The organization was done really well," Converse said.
Like Converse, local students Logan Merritt, 12, and Laura Merritt, 14, along with their godmother Lori Kester turned out to help organize and conduct the giveaway.
"For me, if I was a little kid, and I didn't get any presents, I would be sad. I wanted to come and help," Logan said.
"It made me feel bad inside, because they don't have toys," Laura said.
And the memories of helping others will be with them on Christmas Day as they celebrate with their own family, they both said.
It took only two hours to clear the center of all the toys, with only a few bags reserved to be taken back to the Operation Transition home to wait for the families who were unable to pick them up.
Most of the children at the giveaway will probably have to wait until Christmas to receive their gifts. But for one family at the event, a much bigger present started to arrive as they waited.
"We had a mother that was waiting, and I guess the excitement of the evening ... and she had two young boys with her, and she said, 'I can't stay, I'm having a baby,'" Ms. Mosley said.
The mother left for the hospital as she went into labor, and Operation Transition will hold her family's gifts until they can be picked up, including a special toy for the newborn.
The response from the people receiving toys was also wonderful, Ms. Mosley said.
"They are so thankful. They are so patient, too, because at first it took us a little while to get our rhythm on, but once we got rolling, it's just been beautiful," she said.
Although she was hopeful the community would come through, before the surge of giving flooded in, Ms. Mosley herself wasn't sure if the giveaway would collect enough toys for all of the children.
"No way. I just kept praying, I just kept saying, 'I'm leaving this in God's hands, because he made this happen, and Goldsboro showed up and showed out,'" she said.
This year was the second time the group has conducted a toy drive, but this year was by far the biggest outreach program Operation Transition has ever conducted.
"I can't top this, I don't want to top this, but it's been a blessing, especially with the community embracing us. A lot of them said, I didn't even know who you were, so for them to reach out to an agency they didn't know just shows how good the hearts are here," Ms. Mosley said.
She extended her deepest thanks to the many, many people and organizations who made the drive possible. But even as the last few families trickled out of the door with their bags, even Ms. Mosley still seemed breathless from the Christmas rush.
"It happened. It happened," she said, hugging another volunteer.