Community Cares Toy Shop
It certainly wasn’t a “Winter Wonderland” outside, but as Connecting Henry kicked-off its completely overhauled Community Christmas program on Monday to a room full of excited volunteers, one might certainly call it “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year.”
Dubbed the “Community Cares Toy Shop, Christmas for the Community, By the Community,” the revamped program is designed to better meet the needs in the community that are continuing to increase, even as resources continue to decrease.
“People are struggling even more, and the community just could not step up any more than it already does,” explained Daryl Dotschay, Director of Coordinated Services with Connecting Henry, which has taken the lead on the Community Christmas program for the last 11 years. “We realized it was time to reevaluate and restructure. This new program will be headed up by a community collaborative, hence the term, ‘for the community, by the community.”
No longer will individuals and groups adopt families and be responsible for the shopping to provide everything on their wish list. Instead, Connecting Henry is calling on the community to donate money that will allow Connecting Henry to buy toys in bulk, stretching those dollars to reach even more families in need this year.
For the first time, those toys will be set up in the form of a toy store, and qualified parents will be given an opportunity to come and “shop” the store – for free – to select two toys, and one article of clothing for each of their children.
“For the parent who is struggling, to be able to pick out a gift for their child gives them that dignity back,” said Dotschay.
In addition, Connecting Henry is looking to partner with other organizations to provide a selection of books in the Toy Store, tying into the community’s E2: Economics & Education program led by the Henry County Chamber of Commerce, for which some of the goals are ensuring school readiness and raising test scores. Parents will be able to select one grade level-appropriate book for their child.
The store will be staffed by volunteer “personal shoppers” to assist the parents in making their selections, and will offer free gift wrapping and babysitting services, all set in a festive atmosphere, complete with carols, cookies and cocoa.
The Community Cares Toy Shop will be by invitation only, based on need. Families who feel that their circumstances may qualify them for this program may apply beginning in November. All applicants will be interviewed to verify residency and economic need.
The Community Cares Toy Shop will be open December 8-10, 2011 in a yet to be determined location. As this is several weeks earlier than the deadline in previous years for providing the toys, and Connecting Henry has to purchase the toys in advance to ensure sufficient duplicate stock of each item, they are asking churches, civic groups and individuals to donate funds for the program as soon as possible. Check donations may be made out to Connecting Henry, Inc. and mailed to 333 Phillips Drive, Suite D, McDonough, GA 30253 or submitted online at www.connectinghenry.org.
In addition, they are looking for volunteers to help staff the Community Cares Toy Shop in the areas of personal shopper, gift wrap, baby-sitting, serving cocoa and cookies, security, decorating, stocking the shelves and clean-up.
“This is not Connecting Henry’s Community Christmas. We are counting on the community for help,” noted Dotschay. “There is plenty to do, plenty of opportunities to get involved.”
More than 2,000 kids are expected to be helped through the Community Cares Toy Shop, including approximately 800 children that are currently homeless in Henry County.