A South Side Chicago church is holding onto faith as they wait for over 300 toys to be donated to their children's toy drive before they kick off their holiday giveaway event this afternoon. Over 630 inner city children are expected to attend but as of Christmas Eve morning, Sanctuary Family Worship Center had only received less than half of what they were hoping for.
"It looks like we'll be getting enough toys, so we won't have to turn anyone away," said Pastor Virgil Jones, to the Christian Post. "We'll be collecting toys up until the time of the party and if for some reason we don't have enough, we'll mail the toys to the children after we've collected more."
The church's annual toy drive is in its 19th year and each time, Jones says that they have been able to create a Christmas experience for children that come from families who have little to no financial resources.
"We do this to encourage our children and let them know that someone cares about them and their situation. Some of them are the poorest children in Chicago, they are homeless or live in shelters so they're not able to experience Christmas," said Jones. "It's very important for us to let them know that they are important, needed and respected. We also want them to know that they can grow up to be leaders, have self-esteem and be gifted. This is our way of showing love."
The toy drive initially began at Sanctuary after Jones heard about a 12-year-old boy who hung himself on Christmas Eve years ago because he did not want to be teased by classmates for not getting presents. Jones said he also experienced waking up one Christmas morning without gifts as a child and the boy's story along with his heartfelt need to help impoverished children prompted him to take action.
Despite their current toy shortage, Jones said this isn't the first time that they experienced a dilemma with their Christmas event. In 2007, his church was robbed and hundreds of gifts that were set aside for the giveaway were taken in addition to the church piano and other equipment. The robbery resulted in $10,000 worth of damages. However, they continued with the toy drive after receiving an outpour of donations from nearby communities and out of state resources.
Now, Jones is urging people to have faith in a miracle and hopes Chicago communities can respond at the last minute to make this year's toy drive the highlight of each child's holiday season.