By CHERIL VERNON
The national Toys for Tots organization is planning to collect and distribute toys in Anderson County this year, making Christmas brighter for some of Palestine's children.
Amanda Malone, co-pastor of Cornerstone Worship Center in Palestine, will serve as the Anderson County Toys for Tots representative, supervised by Cherokee County Toys for Tots Coordinator Stephen Hutson.
“Cherokee County's Toys for Tots program has been sending toys to Anderson County in the past, but this year they were looking for a representative in Palestine to help them here,” Malone told the Herald-Press Monday. “Next year, the Toys for Tots program will be sending me to Virginia to be certified as a coordinator.”
Toys for Tots was established by the United States Marine Corp. in 1947 — distributing 450 million toys over the years to children in need throughout the country.
Malone has already placed Toys for Tots boxes at several businesses in Palestine.
“I know Christmas is not about the toys, but in a child's mind, they don't understand that,” Malone said. “Through the toy drive, we can make children smile because they know someone cares about them. It also helps take the stress off the parents, who are not able to buy for them at Christmas.”
Malone's church, Cornerstone Worship Center held its second annual Back to School Bash in August, providing 1,000 backpacks filled with school supplies to area students.
“We want to be God's hand extended. Through Toys for Tots, it allows Cornerstone to be involved in the community and reach out again,” Malone said.
Application sign-ups for the toy drive (for children of all ages) will be held from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday, Dec. 6 and from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 14 at Cornerstone Worship Center, located at 1100 Salt Works Rd. in Palestine.
“They will need to bring their identification to prove that they live in Anderson County and a Medicaid card, if they have one,” Malone said. “If you don't receive government assistance, do not let that keep you from coming to ask for assistance. We will help as many children as we can.”
The Dec. 14 sign-up day will be the final day for parents to sign up for the toy drive. On Saturday, Dec. 21, parents will pick up their toys.
Toys for Tots boxes to drop off new, unwrapped toys (through Monday, Dec. 16) are set up at the following businesses:
• Cornerstone Worship Center, 1100 Salt Works Rd.
• Freedom Vape, 321 Spring St. (Kroger shopping center)
• Goolsby Insurance Agency LLC, Allstate Insurance Company, 716 N. Church St.
• AAA Mini Storage, 500 Court Dr.
• James F. Ray Used Cars, 103 E. Palestine Ave.
• Mail & More, 210 W. Oak St.
• Country Rub Board, 625 W. Oak St.
• Walmart Supercenter, 2223 S. Loop 256
• Bird Egg Cafe, 1605 W. Palestine Ave.
• Denny's of Palestine, 2350 W. Oak St. Suite 100
• Dollar General in Westwood, 4019 W. Oak St.
• Hometown Pharmacy, 101 Medical Dr.
• Security Storage, 2003 Crockett Rd.
• Candy Cane Corner Child Care Center 4013 W. Oak St.
• Jamie's Therapeutic Touch Day Spa, 1730 Crockett Rd.
• Just Deb's Resale, 214 U.S. 287 South in Elkhart
• Tractor Supply, 2200 S. Loop 256
• Davis Furniture, 1922 Crockett Rd.
• Champion Dodge Chrysler Jeep, 2321 Texas 155 South
“What I have done this year is just getting it off the ground, putting out boxes at several different businesses and trying to get the word out. Every week I go by and empty the boxes,” Malone said. “I have a few more boxes to put out.
Malone hopes to work with other toy drives to make all children happy in Anderson County.
“If we can work together, all of these kids can have a wonderful Christmas,” Malone said. “I know there are a lot of other toy drives. We are not here just for our own benefit, but to benefit other toy drives. If we have toys left over, we will give help where help is needed. ”
Jamie's Therapeutic Touch Day Spa, for example, will be collecting toys now through Dec. 21, with a special “Toy Drive and Pictures with Santa” event on Dec. 21.
Cornerstone Worship Center will host an old-fashioned gospel singing at 7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 14. Admission will be an unopened, unwrapped toy.
Cherokee County Toys for Tots program will help assist Anderson County if needed, Malone said.
“If we don't have enough toys, Cherokee County will help out. But I would rather our community help our families here, coming together to help those in need,” Malone said.
For more information about the toy drive, come to one of the sign-up events or call the church office at 903-729-6896. Messages will be checked daily.