'So they can still believe in Santa'

Toys For Tots brings Christmas to needy children in Caldwell County
Dec. 18, 2013 @ 08:17 AM

Volunteers hauled bags of new toys in trucks to Lower Creek Baptist Church. Lenoir police officers helped unload the trucks, and the toys were then re-packaged and put in large plastic bags in a room. School social workers and the police officers on Tuesday helped load the bags into cars to be delivered to all the county's schools from grades K-8, where parents could then pick them up.

As far as the parents' children will know on Christmas, that all was done by Santa.

That's just the way the Toys for Tots organizers want them to remember it, Lenoir Police Det. Jessica Wesson said.

"The idea is to not let the kids know where the gifts came from, so they can still believe in Santa," Wesson said.

For the past eight years, Toys For Tots in Caldwell County has been collecting presents for children of families who are suffering job losses and might not have money to buy gifts. Started by the Marine Corps League, Toys For Tots has enlisted the help of the school system, law enforcement and social services to deliver on the promise of providing presents for nearly 1,500 children this year.

The need is even greater this year, in which a significantly larger number of children are being served by Toys For Tots over last year, according to school social worker Alexis Hoover. Last year, about 1,000 children were served by Toys For Tots.

"Job loss, unemployment and transient families are what we are seeing with these children," Hoover said. "These are some of the factors that play into the increases of children we are serving over last year. I really do believe it takes a village. To be able to collaborate with these different agencies makes my job a little easier."

Most of the toys were purchased by the Marine Corps League through donations in memory of former Toys For Tots coordinator Sammie Edmisten, and through $13,000 provided by the Toys For Tots Foundation.

"It's important for us to be able to help the kids and assist Toys For Tots," Wesson said. "When they asked, we came."