Topeka residents proved this holiday season that charity does indeed start at home.
The Topeka Rescue Mission’s 2016 community gift drive brought in thousands of items that went to families around the Capital City who otherwise might not have had any presents under the tree.
Topeka Rescue Mission Director Barry Feaker calls this year’s gift drive “phenomenal.”
“We were able to help about 4,000 people this year,” Feaker said. “Nearly 2,600 children were able to receive Christmas gift because of the drive this year.”
Families and individuals who benefitted from items donated to the gift drive were able to pick them up and the Topeka Rescue Mission’s Christmas Shop. Volunteers and mission staffers spent several days transforming a north Topeka warehouse into a holiday-themed store stocked with a wide range of household items, clothing and knick-knacks.
And of course, there were plenty of toys.
“This year we collected just shy of 3,700 toys to help out the Topeka Rescue Mission,” said US Bank Commercial Relationship Manager Missy Lackey, who helped coordinate the toy drive.
The Rescue Mission’s Christmas Shop opened its doors about three weeks prior to the December 25 holiday. Customers were invited to come in and pick from the donated items as they would any commercial retailer.
Director of Distribution Kay Ireland was tasked with handling the day-to-day operations of the shop. She says taking part in the effort was a “wonderful” experience.
“We could not have done it without the toy drive and the gift drive,” Ireland said. “We helped so many people and they were so grateful to be able to get the gifts for their families and children.”
Toys and other gifts were dropped off at more than 70 donation barrels left at businesses scattered across Topeka. Local organizations sponsoring the drive were tasked with delivering those items to the mission’s distribution center.
Alpha Media Topeka Torey Berndt, Promotions Director for Alpha Media Topeka – parent company of local radio stations KTPK-FM, WIBW-AM and WIBW-FM – was among those handling the deliveries.
“Everyone knows a kid in their life and everyone has families in their lives, Berndt said. “To know what it’s like for yourself on Christmas and to know that you’ve given that feeling to someone else is great. We still have toys coming in at the radio station because they heard about it a couple weeks ago.”
Alongside US Bank and Alpha Media, WIBW TV and engineering firm Bartlett & West took part in the community gift drive.
The passing of the holiday season has not lessened the importance of community altruism. A recent post on the Topeka Rescue Mission’s website shows the non-profit is in need of clothing, toiletries, food and furniture.