JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - Thanks to the generosity of Region 8 residents, more than two hundred children are going to have a merry Christmas this year.
The "Underprivileged Children's Christmas Program," also known as "Toys for Tots", has been around for almost thirty years. Chairman Betty Payne has been running this program for the last four years. "This is done with private donations from the community, individuals contributing. People also donate gently used toys from their toy boxes. With the money collected, we have shoppers who go out and buy the items families have requested for their kids."
Payne says she's noticed an increase in the number of people that need help. "The past couple of years, since the economy has been down, we have had more in need. And just, again, because of unemployment. Some of these people have been unemployed for a year or so and they're still trying to find jobs."
And this year the number of families and children needing assistance is staggering. "It helps a lot of children. This year there are over two hundred and sixty children that we have bought Christmas toys for. . .One hundred and six families. Many of them are really needy families because of unemployment or their single mothers who are living on a fixed income and having a difficult time."
Payne says without the help of volunteers and donations, this program wouldn't be possible.
"We're glad the community steps up with compassion and caring and does this program each year. This is just such a giving time. To see the community open up their arms and pocketbooks and help those less fortunate is a wonderful thing."
Part of the help volunteers of this organization receive comes from the Trumann Police Department. Chief Tony Rusher says he and fellow officers assist with whatever needs to be done. "In the past, I know I personally have delivered if the weather's bad or for whatever reason. Maybe the parents don't have a way to come and get the gifts for the children and we'll make sure they get them. So, we're just proud to be a part of it."
Chief Rusher says he and his officers are thrilled to get to help so many families that live in the community they work to serve. "I've got several officers here in the department, if I'm not around they help. And speaking for them, and myself, it just makes us feel good. You know, we deal with a lot of bad things in our job and it's just a real good feeling to know that on Christmas morning they'll be some smiles on some kids faces and we got to be a part of that. It's just really good."
Families that showed up for their Christmas bag of presents also got to choose items for stocking stuffers that were donated by residents.