By Adam Armour/The Itawamba County Times
As a nice counterpoint to the madness that Christmas shopping has become, the pick-up for the Fulton Civic Club’s annual Getting Itawamba Families to Santa (G.I.F.T.S.) Toy Drive was actually a subdued affair.
Held last week at Fulton United Methodist Church, the pick-up for the toy drive saw dozens of participants selecting from hundreds of different toys all neatly lined and categorized from large to small, boys to girls.
One at a time, qualifying participants were led down the rows of toys by a Civic Club member and given free rein to pick from among the toys. Each participant was allowed to select three large toys and one small toy, called a “stocking stuffer.” Toys varied from board games, Ben 10 action figures, water guns, Barbie dolls, remote-controlled trucks and more.
This year’s event benefitted 138 Itawamba County children, up from last year’s 130 kids. According to Salena Nolan, Civic Club member and one of the toy drive’s primary organizers, this year’s toy drive continued a trend of growth.
“We benefitted more kids that ever,” she said. “Plus, we had some nice toys this year, so I think it was a big success.”
“Every year, the toy drive grows,” she added.
This year’s toy drive benefitted from a new fundraiser. In mid-November, the Civic Club hosted the G.I.F.T.S. Gala, a semi-formal event held at the Fulton Country Club that featured food, live entertainment and a silent auction. Nolan said this first-time event proved to be a major coup for the non-profit group.
“The gala brought in more than $8,000 in profit … It was fantastic,” Nolan said, adding that the success guarantees the event’s return next year and beyond.
Last year, the group raised slightly more than $4,500 via various fundraisers. The success of the gala means that, for the first time, the program has money in the bank. Nolan said that knowing the group has a starting point for next year is extremely gratifying.
The G.I.F.T.S. Toy Drive has been a long-running, hugely successful event that has helped hundreds of children have an exciting Christmas morning.
Depending on the amount of funds they raise in a given year, the group purchases a number of toys for a wide range of age groups. They also collect toy donations from individuals and schools, which will be given away as well.
Families apply for the program through the Itawamba County Salvation Army and must be eligible for that organization’s Angel Tree program to qualify for the G.I.F.T.S. Toy Drive.
According to Nolan, the program is truly appreciated by those who benefit from it: Namely, the kids.
“It’s a lot of work,” Nolan said of the event. “Any one of us can be in an unfortunate circumstance. At least we can do something for these kids. That’s the rewarding part of it.”