Midlands Christmas Toy Drive aims to put smiles on kid’s faces

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Published: Dec. 15, 2021 at 9:24 AM EST|Updated: Dec. 15, 2021 at 4:34 PM EST
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Thousands of kids in the Midlands can receive Christmas gifts this year thanks to donations from people in the community.

In hopes of making the holidays special, organizers with the non-profit Big Homie Little Homie Mentoring will pack parents’ trunks with more than 6,000 Christmas toys filling the inside of a storage unit. They will be passed out to kids during the 5th Annual Big Homie Little Homie Toy Drive in Columbia.

Jamal Stroud, the founder of the group, says the event is a partnership between the non-profit and the community to spread some holiday cheer.

“We have thousands of kids here in Columbia that do not have those positive memories, so we just want to be able to assist that, make those memories for them to say, ‘hey, somebody cares enough about me to give me something for Christmas’,” Stroud said. “We just want to make sure that we put a smile on a kid’s face, put a smile on a parent’s face and say, hey, thank you guys for making my Christmas much better.”

The mission goes beyond giving away toys for Christmas. Every day Stroud says mentors who often use their own money work with mentees who are growing up without a father in the home or are in need of a positive influence.

Stroud says weekly zoom calls teach kids important life skills like self-control and how to stay out of trouble.

“The need is very, very detrimental because there are children that do not have positive figures in their lives. So we just tried to step in and give them assistance and motivate them to become better individuals, better versions of themselves,” Stroud said.

Last year kids received thousands of toys at the drive. Parents popped their trunk and gifts were loaded inside.

Deneshia Morgan was there with her kids, including her 10-year-old son Malik. He’s a mentee with the mentoring group.

Malik joined two years ago and Morgan says behavior issues at home have stopped. She says the number of toys given out at the toy drive shows kids how much they are loved.

“If something like this, in my opinion, isn’t happening in the community, the child has just failed, because everybody needs the opportunity. Everybody regardless if it’s your child or not, if you can help I say do it,” Morgan said. “Kids need to feel important too. They need to feel like it’s not mommy that loves you. But it’s the community too, somebody that you don’t even know is giving you stuff and they enjoy it.”

The toy drive is on Friday outside the Richland Two Institute of Innovation on Fashion Drive. The event starts at 6 p.m. and will last for about an hour.

It’s free and open to all kids. Right now Big Homie Little Homie Mentoring is looking for additional mentors. Organizers say they’re having to turn some kids away from the program because they don’t have enough positive influencers.

For more information about how to become a mentor, click here.

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