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Groups preparing to help children at holiday

The children of Lincoln County shall have a merry Christmas.

So declares the Junior Auxiliary of Brookhaven and theBrookhaven Area Toys for Tots program, a pair of charitableorganizations that are preparing to take on the needs of childrenfrom families in need this holiday season. Coordinating togetherand using similar methods, the groups are gearing up to stuff thestockings of an estimated 600 local children this Christmas.

“It’s kind of a Christian mission of love,” said Kevin Kimble,co-chairman of Toys for Tots. “No matter what the parents are goingthrough, the stresses or whatever, the kids deserve to have a merryChristmas.”

To accomplish the mission of love, Toys for Tots will providenew toys for approximately 300 local children. Collection pointswill be established next week throughout Brookhaven where peoplemay donate new toys. Monetary donations are also essential, and maybe dropped off at King’s Daughters Medical Center or maileddirectly to Kimble at 373 Hutcherson Lane Southeast inBrookhaven.

Toy boxes will be set up at KDMC, Regions Bank, Republic Financeand First Bank. More stations will be added later.

Once the donation drive is completed, Kimble and his volunteerswill sort and store the toys in the Brookhaven RecreationDepartment headquarters and, using the funds donated, run amidnight invasion of Wal-Mart’s toy section to fill in whatevergaps remain. The toys will be sorted in bags according to age andsex.

Distribution has been tentatively set for Dec. 19 at therecreation department.

Toys for Tots will add children to its list during anapplication day Saturday, Nov. 14, from 7:30 a.m. to noon at theBrookhaven Recreation Department. Parents, guardians and familyfriends may recommend a needy child by sitting down with a Toys forTots volunteer and completing a short application.

Kimble said Toys for Tots is hoping to raise around $4,000 indonations this year. The high mark for the organization was in2005, following Hurricane Katrina, when more than 350 children wereon the list. The number dropped in 2006, but has grown steadilysince, especially during the current economic recession.

“We couldn’t do it without the community’s support,” Kimblesaid. “There’s times when our numbers grow because parents can’tafford so much to get for their kids. What are you going to buy?Food or a toy.”

To make sure as many needy children as possible are reached,Toys for Tots cross checks its list with JA’s Wish Tree Kids.

The auxiliary’s Wish Trees are already up, decorated with paperornaments containing the information for a further 310 children.Wish Trees have been placed at Bank of Brookhaven, Broma’s, JustKiddin’ of Brookhaven, KDMC, State Bank on Brookway Boulevard,Trustmark’s main branch in downtown and Wal-Mart.

People who wish to help make Christmas merry for the little onesneed only to take an ornament from the tree and go shopping. Thedual ornaments contain one page listing a child’s information, suchas clothing and shoe sizes, and a second page to be filled out withthe shopper’s information and placed in a box near the WishTree.

JA’s program goes beyond just toys, and the group recommendsshoppers purchase two outfits of clothing, underclothes, atoothbrush and three new toys. Gifts should be returned, unwrapped,to the site of the Wish Tree by Nov. 30. The Wish Tree ornamentshould be attached to the gifts to let JA members know what childthe bag is intended for.

If any children go unadopted during the program, JA will fill inand purchase gifts for that child.

Likewise, those too busy to go shopping but still possessing theheart to help may make a donation to the auxiliary. Donationinstructions and further Wish Tree information may be obtained bycalling JA’s Wish Tree hotline at 601-754-4319.

“In the Junior Auxiliary, this is what we do – we work withchildren, trying to make their lives better,” said Wish Treeco-chairwoman Buffy Ezell. “We’re trying to let them have aChristmas they might not otherwise have.”

Wish Tree distribution day has been set for Saturday, Dec. 12,from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the State Room.