Since the toy drive’s inauguration in 1989, Wesley Memorial United Methodist Church’s Santa’s Helpers has grown to help bring Christmas to around 175 to 200 families, or 400 to 500 kids in Walker County each year.
However, this year, Santa’s Helpers co-chair Scott Atnip anticipates that the need will be even greater.
“Especially in this year with coronavirus and everything else that 2020 has brought on our community and the world, we know that there are going to be families this year that are struggling,” Atnip said. “So we are anticipating that more than ever, Walker County families are going to need a little extra help this Christmas and I have always been amazed at how this community has responded.”
Santa’s Helpers is a partnership between Wesley Memorial United Methodist Church, various other congregations and volunteers throughout the community to bring toys to local families in need through the Good Shepherd Mission.
Families began signing up through the mission on Nov. 1, undergoing income and social security number verifications to qualify for the drive. Parents or guardians will then be invited to schedule a shopping appointment at the church’s fellowship hall to pick out toys on the second Saturday of December.
“Parents of children will be able to pick out toys for their kids, go home and wrap them and put them under the tree,” Atnip said.
Wesley Memorial United Methodist Church is now looking for new toys, especially for children ages 10 and up, monetary donations and Spanish speaking volunteers to make sure that this year’s Santa’s Helpers meets the needs of the community.
“Every dollar, every toy, every hour donated, stays in the Walker County area, and because we are a county that is historically lower on the income level and higher on the number of individuals living below or right at the poverty line, I believe that is something that is very important,” Wesley Memorial United Methodist Church Reverend Kimberly Carney said.
Although Santa’s Helpers is the largest toy distributor in Walker County, It’s just as special and anticipated of an event for the volunteers that dedicate their time to organizing and operating it, as it is for those on the receiving end.
“For that short amount of time, we are able to give gifts that ultimately symbolize the gift that God gave us through Jesus Christ,” Carney said.
“Santa’s Helpers is the Christmas season for my family. There is nothing better than standing out and talking to families on Santa’s Helpers morning and talking about the impact that it has on them. It brings so much joy to participate in the program,” Atnip added. “Every year, we hear stories from families that never would have expected that they would be standing in line, but something came up and they just needed a little extra help and it is an incredible feeling to know that we are able to be with them in that time.”
Toy donations are welcome through Dec. 11 at Wesley Memorial United Methodist Church, located at 700 Hwy 30 East in Huntsville. For inquiries or to volunteer, contact the church at (936)295-7459.