In time for the holiday: Campaigns deliver toys to youngsters, gifts to seniors

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Jolly laughter rang through neighborhoods all over Cape Girardeau Tuesday night as children ran to windows to get a glimpse of the bearded man in red. For families who participated in the Toybox charity, Christmas came early and children got a surprise visit from one of 22 volunteer Santas.

This is the 31st year that Toybox has collected toys for needy families in the area. Four-hundred-nineteen families received gifts this year from the charity, which is co-sponsored by the Cape Girardeau Jaycees and the Southeast Missourian.

For mothers like Ada Sykes and Angela Barnhill, who live together and are raising six small children, Christmas-time would be a lot less cheerful without a helping hand.

"It's been real tough this year," said Sykes who, is unemployed. "There have been times I thought we wouldn't be able to get presents for all these kids until after Christmas. It's tough enough just to pay the rent."

If the 200-watt smile on the face of 3-year-old Diaviant Jenkins, Barnhill's daughter, is any indication, the children are already having a Christmas to remember.

This year, Toybox raised more than $30,000 in addition to having hordes of board games, dolls and action-figures donated individually. The River City Rodders led the way, donating 19 bikes.

Most families choose to hide the presents until Christmas morning. This did not stop Santa, who bore an uncanny resemblance to city councilman Matt Hopkins, from giving each of the children on his route an early gift.

Six-year-old Kimberly Jones was particularly excited to describe the pony she received. "It's a horse that comes with a comb and a brush so you can do its hair," she said. Kimberly is holding out hope for a Rapunzel Barbie on Christmas morning.

With the children having all the fun, some of the adults started to feel left out. "Santa, what about that Lamborghini I asked for?" laughed Kimberly's father, Richard Jones.

Her mother, Mary Miller, was quick to stress how much Toybox means to the family, "This is the third year we've done this," she said, "and it's very important for us when money is short. And anyway, the kids are so excited to see Santa."

Christmas for the Elderly

Toybox's partner program, Christmas for the Elderly, also delivered gifts on Tuesday. The charity received $15,000 in donations in 2005.

The money bought necessary items that are outside of the reach of some senior citizens. Recipients received a Lifeline medical alert device, a year-long subscription to the Meals on Wheels program, gift certificates to local pharmacies for prescription drugs and supermarket gift certificates.

Tami Goldrick, a long-term care specialist with the Cape Girardeau County Department of Health and Senior Services, said the program is indispensable to the agency's clientele. "Most of our clients live on $500 a month, with $10 in food stamps, so they just make it from month to month," she said. "These are people who worked hard all their life, and usually a catastrophic illness took all their savings away. A lot of them will be spending Christmas alone."

tgreaney@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 245

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