GREENFIELD — Come Christmas morning, stockings in their Greenfield home will be stuffed. Presents will beckon from beneath the tree.
It’s a sight Rachel Wright of Greenfield worried she wouldn’t see this holiday.
She and her husband are struggling to make ends meets; she’s unable to work, and he’s cut back hours to help out with their new baby, Jaydon, who was born prematurely and has spent the past month in a neonatal intensive care unit at an area hospital.
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They’re behind on rent, and hospital bills are piling up. There was no wiggle room in their budget for Christmas presents this year.
So when Wright learned her children would be among some 300 area kids to benefit from Hancock County’s Toys for Tots charity drive, she sat down and cried. Saturday morning, she was among dozens of parents who gratefully picked up brand new toys for their children ahead of the holiday during the organization’s fifth annual distribution day.
Families are given as many as six new toys to take home. Many said they would wrap them and stick them under the tree for Christmas morning, their children being none the wiser to the family’s financial struggles.
Wright’s 9-year-old son, Skyler, can’t wait for Christmas morning to see what Santa brought him, and she’s relieved he won’t be disappointed thanks to the community’s generosity.
“This program is such a blessing,” she said. “I was so scared I wasn’t going to be able to get my kids presents this year.”
Since 1991, the U.S. Marine Corps. Reserve has sponsored Toys for Tots programs in communities across the country. During October, November and early December, the organization collects new, unwrapped toys to distribute as Christmas gifts to needy children.
In Hancock County, the program has provided presents for hundreds of children (infants through 12-year-olds) the past five years. Saturday, volunteers distributed some 3,000 toys.
Families are referred to the program through their children’s schools and by local organizations that provide assistance to residents in need.
During the distribution day, families are given vouchers to pick up their gifts, and behind-the-scenes volunteers hand pick age-appropriate toys for each child before handing packages over to parents.
They’re given stuffed animals, board games, toy trucks and books, among a variety of other toys. They’re also able to pick up clothes, used toys, hats and gloves, which are also donated by the community in the months leading up to the event.
Though the Marine Corps. Reserve donates some money to purchase toys, most come from the community, said Christy Harpold, a social worker at J.B. Stephens Elementary School who helps organize the event.
In October, drop boxes were set up throughout the community for donations. This week, the Marine Corps. organization collected the boxes and dropped them off at J.B. Stephens for distribution.
For many families, the toy drive makes Christmas morning special, Harpold said.
“It gives parents a sense of pride to be able to give something to their kids,” she said. “This is a great way for the community to give and see their gift go back into the community.”
Cassie Hinzman and her family just recently relocated to Greenfield from Kentucky, a move that strained their budget.
She wasn’t sure how she and her partner, John Goff, would scrape together extra money to buy gifts for their 6-year-old son, Dakota, especially because his birthday is just a few weeks after Dec. 25.
But under the tree on Christmas morning will be a new bicycle for Dakota, who hasn’t had a bike since he was about 3 years old. It’s a present he’ll love, and one they wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford this year, Hinzman said.
The parents are grateful to their new community.
“The help that’s around here is amazing,” Goff said. “I’ve never seen as giving of a city or town.”