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St. Vincent's island of misfit toys

by MADISON HARDY
Staff Writer | December 26, 2020 1:06 AM

COVID may have tried to rain on Santa's parade, but St. Vincent de Paul found a way to serve 130 kiddos through the annual Children's Toy Store Program.

Leading up to Christmas, St. Vincent's hosted its annual Children's Toy Store Dec. 10-18 for those who needed a little extra cheer this year.

Turning the HELP Center's downstairs meeting room into a store-of-sorts, half a dozen staffers transformed the area into a full festive experience, St. Vincent de Paul executive director Larry Riley said.

Unlike before, where clusters of wide-eyed children and parents were able to shop simultaneously, Riley said this year was one at a time. Guided by volunteer elves Kelli Lunceford, Katie Simmons, St. Vincent's Executive Assistant Janet Brock, Melanie Krier, Aly Pogue, Amber Melom, and Annie Parker, the event stayed safe and sanitized all week long.

Last year the program design changed slightly. Instead of pre-wrapped gifts labeled by age and gender, elves spread the items throughout the room based on the estimated value. In the spirit of "giving and learning," Riley said, parents had 100 points per child to spend at the shop.

"With COVID-19, we had to come up with a hybrid solution," Riley said. "It's not a complicated process, but it reinforced the habit of 'budget' and kinda living within your means."

Along with a range of presents like basketballs, Bluetooth speakers, headsets, makeup, and child games, the Children's Toy Program passed out scarves, beanies, gloves, socks, hats, and books, Brock said.

Though the store is now closed, St. Vincent's is still accepting gift donations, food, gift cards, and winter clothes in preparation for next Christmas — as well as all the birthdays for families in need along the way.

"We have another 364 days a year to put a smile on a child's face," Riley said. "Moms or dads with limited means always want to provide for their child. They certainly want to make Christmas special, but birthdays too."

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St. Vincent De Paul's found a way to serve 130 kids through the annual Children's Toy Store Program, despite COVID-blues. Photo courtesy St. Vincent De Paul.

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Through the help over multiple donations, the St. Vincent De Paul Children's Toy Store Program served 130 kiddos this Christmas. Photo courtesy St. Vincent De Paul.