Toy donations brighten Christmas for struggling U.S. families

As the U.S. economy continues to struggle, children and families in need find a reason for hope and joy during the Christmas season through toys and other goods donated by corporate partners and distributed through World Vision.

Story and photos by Laura Reinhardt.
Published December 15, 2011 at 12:00am PST

A year ago, as 2010 headed to a close, the national news on the economy offered tepid hope to those struggling through the recession. As was typical across the country, many families in the White Center neighborhood of Seattle had little hope or money to afford Christmas gifts for their children.

World Vision, in partnership with White Center Heights Elementary School, offered free, brand-new toys to families with children who attend the school. World Vision helped out in two other schools in the Highline District alone, providing 600 toys per school — one for every child — as part of its annual local Christmas support program.

A line snaked out the door of the gymnasium and into the hallway, testifying to the need in this community.

‘It’s hard for me to provide’

Felicia Porter, 35, came to the distribution with two of her five children. Her husband’s work as an industrial painter has been hit-and-miss because the housing industry was hit hard during the recession.

“It’s hard for me to provide,” she said. The gift distribution helped her to see that she and her family are not alone in their struggle.

From left: Faith Porter, Felicia Porter, Isaiah Porter, Sherry Morris, and Cheyenne Hatch are all happy about the gifts they received.“It’s nice to know that people want to give,” she said. “I feel special. It touches my heart.”

Her 10-year-old son, Isaiah, eagerly tested out all the features of his new Transformer action figure.

Side effects of an ailing economy

For Sherry Morris, 49, a single mother with two grown children and two young ones at home, the year had also been a struggle.

“I’m behind on my bills,” she said, adding that she found it difficult to afford any gifts for her children. “You can’t even buy a cheap baby doll.”

This evening, her 6-year-old daughter, Cheyenne Hatch, got her very own, brand-new doll. “I’m so grateful to know that people care,” Sherry said to the donors. “I want God to bless you double.”

Two 11-year-old girls received a couple of DVDs. “Thanks for everything. I’m really watching this tonight,” said Runijah, holding up one of the DVDs.

Nelva Luchi, 18, brought her 12-year-old brother, her 3-year-old niece, and her 2-year-old son, Roberto, to the evening’s gift distribution. For most of the year, she hadn’t been working, but she found a job as a janitor two weeks prior.

Nelva Luchi smiles with her 2-year-old son, Roberto, and her 3-year-old niece, Melissa, at World Vision's Christmas gift distribution last year.Still, two weeks’ worth of pay did not provide her with the extra money she needed to buy a toy for Roberto. After tonight, Roberto has at least one new toy for the season. “Thank you. It’s really helpful,” she said.

“I wonder what’s in the box?” asked 3-year-old Cierra Davis. After getting permission from her mom and grandmother to open the present, she found an age-appropriate learning game. Her three older brothers walked away with brand-new Transformer action figures.

Tools for a brighter Christmas

The gift of a toy can brighten the face of any child — especially one whose family has been affected by the economic downturn.

In the year since the toy distribution in Seattle, economic conditions haven’t gotten easier for many families. A sluggish job market, rising costs of living, and high unemployment rates have left many struggling just to get by. Celebrating Christmas with gifts may be out of the question.

Throughout the year, World Vision acquires donated items from generous corporate partners — including toys for the holidays, as well as basics like books, clothing, school supplies, and more. We work with local organizations to distribute these items to communities and families who need them most.

This Christmas, as in years past, World Vision will use these goods to help make the holiday a bit brighter for families in need. For some, such basic items can mean the world.

“Thank you very, very much,” said Christy Smotherman, mother of Cierra. “This year, it’s been tight with everything, so every little bit helps.”

How you can help U.S. families this Christmas

Please pray for those right here in the United States who continue to struggle because of the faltering economy. Pray that children and families in need would see God’s love and provision this Christmas through the generosity and kindness of others.

Make a one-time donation to help provide Christmas gifts to U.S. children. Your contribution, combined with corporate donations, will multiply to help provide toys, books, warm clothing, school supplies, and other items to children whose families are in need.

Or, make a one-time gift to help feed an American family for three days. Many families right now are struggling with homelessness, job loss, natural disasters, and other crises. Your donation can help restore hope to those for whom it is desperately needed.