Toys for Tots received a significant boost thanks to the staff at Lanesboro Correctional Institution.
As they do every year, the staff divided into teams to compete to win the most points. A point system assigning money and certain types of toys is used to judge the groups. Bikes, for example, are 50 points each. All of the donations were given to Toys for Tots on Dec. 16.
This year, Team One won. It was made up of assistant unit manager Stacy Wiek, unit manager Glen Bullock, unit manager Angela Rorie, assistant superintendent William Rogers, Lt. Ronald Harris, Capt. Sherian Williams and Lt. Derek Philemon.
The teams collected a total of 496 toys and $1,500 in cash, including seven Easy Bake ovens county Toys for Tots coordinator Vancine Sturdivant had asked for. Fourteen bicycles and 25 Big Wheels were also contributed.
Last year, the prison donated 796 toys, according to Jennifer Cole, a staff member who organizes the collection.
“We decided to give cash because after the toys are separated, Vancine still has a need,” Cole said. “This way, she can go out and buy stuff.”
Sturdivant said that before the Lanesboro toys were collected, she only had one Easy Bake oven but had received nine or 10 requests.
“Now, they can get them; every one can get one,” she said. “For some, it was the only thing they had wrote on that list.”
Sturdivant said that she still has a shortage of toys for boys ages 9-14, and that many in that age group have asked for cars, trucks and Hot Wheels. Headphones, board games, remote control cars, tablets, X-Boxes, Playstation 4 consoles, hoverboards, footballs and basketballs are also popular on wish lists.
She and volunteers are busily gathering donations, buying toys and distributing the presents. Last week, that meant staying until midnight each day. Some volunteers are school children who need community service hours for school, she said. They started delivering toys two weeks ago but stopped when they ran out of toys.
“What we try to do, because they’re already underprivileged, is give at least three things on their wish list,” Sturdivant said. “I want every child to feel special, and this really helps them to feel like Santa really brought them what they wanted.”
Sturdivant said that songs about being “naughty or nice” determining whether a child receives a Christmas gift can be hurtful when a child doesn’t receive a gift.
“I don’t want a child to wake up thinking they didn’t get something because, ‘I’ve been bad,’” Sturdivant said.
Reach reporter Imari Scarbrough at 704-994-5471 and follow her on Twitter @ImariScarbrough.