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St. Mark handing out toys Saturday

No one leaves the toy drive without a toy — maybe two or three toys.

Members of Brookhaven’s St. Mark Lodge No. 24 are preparing to make Christmas merry for hundreds of local children Saturday at the group’s fourth annual Toy Drive, a free event designed to ensure local children of all ages get something for Christmas. Lodge treasurer Catories Howard said the drive is open to all families, and the lodge can handle the crowd.

“If we run out of toys, don’t worry — we’re going right back to the store and we’ll be right back with more toys,” he said. “Every child will go home with a toy in their hands.”

The event begins at 1 p.m. Saturday at Mullins School, 717 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive. Admission to the event is free, and on top of toys for local children, the drive will also feature food, door prizes, health screenings, live music, a Santa Claus performer and a bicycle giveaway.

Howard said the lodge and its women’s auxiliary, Electra Chapter No. 24, started the toy drive in 2015 as a way to give back to the community. Around 300 children attended the drive and went home with a Christmas present last year, and Howard expects to see as many as 400 children at Mullins Saturday.

The lodge and its ladies — both non-profit groups — host other outreach events throughout the year, such as delivering fruit baskets to nursing home residents for Thanksgiving, children’s events during the summer, community lunches, back-to-school supply giveaways and empowerment seminars. Members have also organized horse rides for children and police and fire truck demonstrations by Brookhaven police and the Brookhaven Fire Department.

The two groups recruit sponsors for their events and hold fundraisers, with members doubling up on funds raised by matching dollar-for-dollar with personal contributions.

“Some parents in our community can’t afford Christmas for their children, so this is how we want to help those parents,” said Electra member Candace Searcy. “We encourage people to bring their kids, grandkids, nieces and nephews — bring any child you know of who may not have a Christmas, even if they’re not your family, but maybe someone you know or work with.”

Anyone who needs more information about the toy drive or wants to donate a toy may call Kenneth Young at 601-481-5153.