Choosing toys for a child's Christmas gift can make anyone feel like a kid again. And some community members aren't truly ready to grow up.
The Cape Girardeau Jaycees, a club of young professionals ages 21 to 40, organize Toybox, a program that gives holiday gifts to needy children in the city.
"I can't imagine my Christmas without being involved in it," said Scott McClanahan, a member of the Jaycees who has helped with Toybox for 18 years.
Toybox provides basic toys and spends about $50 per child. "Our kids all go through books and pick out what they want. Toybox is designed to provide kids with at least something they ask for."
On each application, parents and guardians can list special requests and offer suggestions for suitable toys. Each year there are many requests for the season's latest toys and games.
The Jaycees have helped with Toybox every year "because there's a need in Cape Girardeau for a service like this," McClanahan said.
The Jaycees have also helped organize the Christmas for the Elderly collections in the past few years. Volunteers from area churches often help make the deliveries to the senior adults.
Applications for Toybox are being accepted through Dec. 3. Caseworkers through the Missouri Division of Health and Senior Services and the county health department refer clients for Christmas for the Elderly.
In the first week more than 180 people have applied for Toybox, said Kerry Reeves, the Jaycees project chairwoman. Applicants must show a picture ID, proof of income and a Social Security number for each child seeking to receive gifts. Applications are accepted at the Salvation Army, 701 Good Hope St., from 10 a.m. to noon and from 1 to 4 p.m. weekdays.
Toybox gifts will be delivered Dec. 16. People who receive other assistance from the Salvation Army -- through food baskets or winter clothing -- will receive their gifts on Dec. 22.
Drop-off boxes for donated items will be out for shoppers on the day after Thanksgiving. Gifts also are accepted at the Southeast Missourian offices, 301 Broadway.
"We need everything," Reeves said. "We're starting from scratch."
Toybox aids 500 families and gives toys to about 1,000 children who live in Cape Girardeau. Other programs, like Toys for Tots, serve outlying communities in the county and Bootheel.
"And any that fall in the cracks, we help," said Maj. Mike Thomas of the Salvation Army. "It works best when groups work together like this."
Thomas doesn't expect a great increase in the number of families who will seek assistance this year. And he knows that many families will do their best to help their fellow man.
"It does a lot to warm your heart. I know families that have stopped buying gifts and adopt a family so that's their gift," he said. "They feel like they're blessed and that's reason to give thanks."
Reeves has seen how welcome the Toybox gifts are to the families who receive them.
A lot of the Jaycees members have children and know how excited they get about Christmas. "To know there are families out there who can't afford to give their kids something special for Christmas," is heartbreaking, she said. But Toybox lets them receive a gift at the holiday. "It just lights up their face and makes you feels so good to know that you've helped somebody."
The Jaycees expect that Toybox will again have plenty of gifts to deliver, "but people need to understand that we need it early," McClanahan said.
Profiles of Toybox and Christmas for the Elderly recipients will begin appearing in the Southeast Missourian on Friday.
335-6611, extension 126
HOW TO HELP
Donations of gifts and money can be made to Toybox or Christmas for the Elderly. Drop items at the Southeast Missourian offices or mail donations to P.O. Box 4, Cape Girardeau, Mo. 63702-0004.