Local News

Thousands line up for mission's toy giveaway

Posted December 23, 2008 12:20 p.m. EST
Updated March 9, 2009 5:11 p.m. EDT

— The sluggish economy sent more than 2,800 people to the Durham Rescue Mission on Tuesday to ensure their children got a toy for Christmas.

The mission gave more than 7,000 toys, 10,000 pieces of clothing and 850 bags of groceries to people on a first-come, first-served basis. The annual event included a holiday lunch of turkey, ham and trimmings.

Ernie Mills, executive director of the mission, said people started lining up for the giveaway at 4:45 a.m. Tuesday, compared with 6 a.m. in previous years.

"The economy is so bad that that mother showed up at 4:45 just to make sure that her kids would have a toy," Mills said, noting that the turnout Tuesday was 17 percent more than a year ago.

Tiffany Harris was among those to line up early, and she said she didn't know what she would do for Christmas without the mission's help.

"I wanted to make sure the kids had something for Christmas," Harris said. "It's a blessing to be here. I thank God every day for waking me up and taking care of me and my family."

Ruth Ortega brought her neighbors to get help but found herself in the toy line for her daughter, Rosa. She said her family can still afford gifts, but is cutting back in the tight economy.

"With how tight things are right now with the community, (this is) definitely a blessing," Ortega said.

Nakeia Thompson, a single mother of three living on disability checks, said she won't be able to buy any Christmas gifts this year, so the mission's event will make her children's holiday bright.

"It would be hard because you have to explain to (the children) that they can't have certain things that they want. It makes the adults feel bad because they want to give their children things, and they can't do it," Thompson said.

Mills said the toy giveaway is his favorite part of the mission's holiday events. After Tuesday, other events are targeted at the homeless people who live at the mission, at 1201 E. Main St.

"I know the pain of not being able to get toys for Christmas, and I just enjoy seeing the other kids smile," he said. "That makes my Christmas for me."