Toy giveaway delights kids

DOVER — Barry Caldwell was asked about his favorite part of Christmas on Saturday morning.

“Celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ,” the smiling 11-year-old quickly answered.

What followed was pretty good, too — choosing a free toy at the fifth annual Toy Giveaway founded by Project Soulful.

Up to 250 kids were expected to wait in line at Kingdom Empowerment Christian Church to pick among several hundred gifts donated through several group efforts. Just a few minutes after the opening, the line of children was a dozen deep and a steady flow of arrivals followed.

As the boys and girls left, they were handed a bag with five or six other toys. A drawing for a new bicycle was planned as well and clothes and shoes were also available for all at no charge.

“This is great,” 12-year-old Sarah Benson said, explaining that she wasn’t sure what to expect when entering the church. “I didn’t want too much for Christmas, maybe some headphones, because I’m not a picky person.”

Holding a remote car, Tairen Quail, 9, said, “I thought it was just a church when I came in. Then it looked like a toy store.”

Standing nearby, Tieje Mapp, 5, counted his 10 new plastic race cars in his second language — Spanish — learned at school. Another child sitting nearby held a boxed new football in his lap..

Caldwell didn’t have a long gift list. “Maybe a bike and other random stuff like clothes.”

The event was scheduled to run from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Any leftover toys — organizers said about three times more items than usual were donated this year — would be distributed to various community organizations to spread themselves.

La’Reka Marshall was inspired to start the giveaway through her Project Soulful community service group because “It was something I just felt in my heart after I experienced struggles, including being homeless and being concerned for my children, and got through it all.

“I know what it’s like to worry about providing for your family around this time of the year, and this seemed like something that parents who may be in the position I was would appreciate.”

Describing her journey and looking around at the bustling group of volunteers, excited kids and their parents, Ms. Marshall was moved to tears a couple times.

“It’s a blessing to be able to be a blessing to your community,” she said.

Representing the Be Bold girls mentoring program, Kimberly Boggert and Tamika Lee gladly volunteered time.

“It’s always better to give back more than you receive,” Ms. Lee said.

Andre Boggert was joined by about 12 of his Omega Psi Phi fraternity brothers and reminisced about his younger days in Detroit.

“I was the bright eyed kid receiving those gifts and to now have the ability to give back is tremendous, it’s humbling,” he said. “Being here makes you forget about anything else that’s going on in your life and in the world for at least a little while.”

Service Coordinator Roberta Goodman and her church on West Division Street gladly provided the space to hold the giveaway. Some of the toys will be taken to Kingdom Empowerment’s site in Seaford for gift distribution.

“It’s an absolute enjoyment to be here, and an important part of the community outreach we take part in throughout the year with different projects,” she said. “When you see (the kids) get to pick their gifts, their eyes get big and they break out in smiles,” she said.


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