Herald-Press publisher Jake Mienk right and Pequita Casteel, left, receptionist, will ensure that more than 400 chiLdren's Christmas wishes will come true.

The Palestine Herald Press has kicked off its 22nd annual Stocking Stuffers Toy Drive with a goal of bringing Christmas to more than 400 children in Anderson County this year.

“Palestine has always supported us and been exceedingly generous and we hope they continue to this Christmas,” said Pequita Casteel, toy drive founder. “We are very thankful for the community's toy donations, which are always above and beyond our expectations.”

In the past two years, the need in the community has grown exponentially. Casteel expects to have between 400 and 450 applications this year.

Casteel, Herald-Press receptionist, started the drive over two decades ago. She undertook the mission after the leader of her church, Dr. Tommy J. Crosby of Grace Temple Church of God and Christ, challenged members to each do something to benefit the Palestine community.

She devotes a week of her personal vacation time to sorting donated toys, purchasing new ones and contacting families of children who requested toys.

This is an event that the entire company is behind, especially Palestine Herald-Press Publisher Jake Mienk.

“Due to the financial hardships the COVID-19 pandemic created in our community, we have more families in need during the holidays than ever before,” Mienk said. “This toy drive is truly an annual community endeavor and it is through your generosity that we can make the Christmas wishes come true for so many children.

“We are always grateful for Pequita and for the role she plays in coordinating the drive, applications and donations. She ensures that all children receive gifts for Christmas. It always amazes me how impactful this toy drive is for families in need right here in Palestine and Anderson County and we look forward to it every year.”

This drive is executed at the Herald-Press office, from application to delivery and benefits families in Anderson County.

Donations of new toys for infants to 14-year-olds can be made at the Herald-Press office, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, now through Friday, Dec. 17.

New toys for children of all ages are needed. Monetary donations are also accepted and are used toward purchasing requested items. Checks should be made payable to the Herald-Press. You can mail donations care of the Palestine Herald Press to P.O. Box 379, Palestine, Texas 75801.

“We will be grateful for whatever people bring,” Casteel said. “Each year, we do our best to give each child three toys, however, this year, we need all toys to be new, including stuffed animals, due to the pandemic.”

Parents should complete applications by Thursday, Dec. 2 providing the family’s address, names of parents and children, and their ages. Applications are collected at local agencies, including Anderson Cherokee County Enrichment Services, the Palestine Community Food Pantry, the Army Reserves, the Highway Department and the Herald-Press.

To ensure the drive collects enough toys, Casteel reviews the applications and checks with other organizations with similar programs.

For information, contact Casteel at 903-729-0281.

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