‘Keeping the spirit alive’: Thomasville Toys for Tots gives back to over 300 families

‘Keeping the spirit alive’: Thomasville Toys for Tots gives back to over 300 families
Published: Dec. 20, 2022 at 10:59 AM EST
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THOMASVILLE, Ga. (WALB) - December is known for Christmas lights, ugly Christmas sweaters and, of course, toys.

The national initiative Toys for Tots is growing in Thomasville and filling a void for families in need of gifts to put under their Christmas trees.

You’ve seen it before. That red train logo represents a nonprofit that gives away thousands of donated toys every year.

“I wanna say roughly around 1,000 that was actually donated and we’ve given out all of them,” said Patrice Fuller Parson, coordinator of Thomasville Toys for Tots.

Toys for Tots has a long history of giving. The organization was created through the Marine Corps in 1941 out of Los Angeles, California. It later became a nonprofit in 1991 and spread throughout different states. On average, the program distributes 18 million toys to 7 million children in need.

Thomasville Toys for Tots helped over 300 families at Sunday's distribution.
Thomasville Toys for Tots helped over 300 families at Sunday's distribution.(WALB)

Toys for Tots was brought to Thomasville in 2017 after Parson retired from the Marine Corps and saw children were also in need in her hometown.

“I’ve been doing this now right at 20 years. Seventeen in the Marine Corps and this year makes my second year as the coordinator for Thomasville. It means a lot to me. This is my hometown, where I was born and raised so that plays a big part in it as well and it kind of warms my heart to be able to provide something to give back to the community,” she said.

Each year, Toys for Tots starts collecting toys in October. This year, Toys for Tots Co-Coordinator Marquez Edwards said they saw an increase in families in need of toys.

“Our numbers will go from 100 families to 110 families to 200 families now to over 300 families. So it’s a need and we try to fill that void,” he said.

Cars lined up as early as 9 a.m. for Thomasville's Toys for Tots distribution on Sunday.
Cars lined up as early as 9 a.m. for Thomasville's Toys for Tots distribution on Sunday.(WALB)

Parson added that plenty of families are looking for help this season.

“Everybody is impacted by something so this definitely helps out,” she said.

Parson said it’s important that no child wakes up on Christmas morning without a gift.

“It’s a lot waking up on Christmas, seeing something under the tree as a kid, that’s a lot. It’s just a big impact knowing that someone cares about you and of course Santa Claus, keeping the spirit alive,” she said.

Thousands of toys are given away each year through the national initiative Toys for Tots.
Thousands of toys are given away each year through the national initiative Toys for Tots.(WALB)

Edwards said surprisingly some people still don’t know about Toys for Tots and that they’re always looking for new volunteers and donations.

“It takes us about two weeks to pack toys for the families and the cars that you see now. So, the first week it was just three of us, second week it was three of us until Friday then there were more of us — like seven or eight. So, we’re always looking for volunteers anybody that willingly wants to give back to the community, please look us up,” he said.

Edwards said the organization’s next goal is to make toy distribution a year-long initiative as opposed to just waiting for the Christmas season.

“Still talking about it. We’re still trying to work with the city to see if we can get a little more support. I think it’s something you can expect to see next year,” he said.

For more information about Toys for Tots and to see how you can get involved, visit ToysforTots.com. If you don’t live in the Thomasville area, you can find distribution sites and campaigns close to you on the Toys for Tots campaign map.

With so much going on in the world today, it’s a relief to be able to stop and listen to the work being done to make the world a better place.

Do you know someone or an organization doing great deeds throughout South Georgia? Send your suggestions to my email at Lenah.Allen@WALB.com.

Happy holidays!