Billy Ray Neal’s phone has been ringing off the hooks lately.
People are calling Neal, the president of Community Helpers Service Center, because they know his organization holds a giveaway of toys, food and clothing this time of year that gives both children and their parents a dose of holiday spirit.
But the need this year, particularly for toys, is greater.
“A lot of people who are used to getting stuff from Toys for Tots, a lot of that stuff went to people who were involved in the disaster (of Hurricane Matthew),” Neal said.
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Community Helpers has two events coming up that will benefit those in need, but for the second event to go as planned, organizers will need a strong response from the public at the first event.
The first event, a toy drive, is set for Saturday, Dec. 10 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m at Community Helpers’ headquarters, located at 111-B N. First Ave. in Knightdale.
“That’s going to give us the push for what we need to do for the second event,” Neal said. “If people want to come out and even donate money, we can go purchase the toys. And for those bringing toys, we ask that they bring them unwrapped.”
The 18-year-old nonprofit supporting low-income families has in past years held a toy, food and clothing drive this time of year to help stock its annual Christmas giveaway.
This year, the group is trying something new in the place of the annual giveaway. It plans to serve 200-plus people a sit-down meal at the Knightdale Recreation Center Saturday, Dec. 17, from 2-6 p.m.
The meal will include about every kind of food imaginable for a holiday feast, made possible by the center and donations by area businesses. Those who attend can also take away toys collected at the Dec. 10 drive, along with new books, pajamas and toiletry items.
Neal plans to also have bags of nonperishable foods for people to take with them, retaining that element from past years’ events.
“It’s the first time we’ve done a sit-down meal and it’s going to be a little bit of trial and error, but it will be good,” Neal said. “I expect next year it will only get bigger and better.”
Neal has been in the game of helping others for a long time. He says he was put on this Earth to serve, and he gets a true sense of joy helping put smiles on the faces of people in need of assistance.
“Man, let me tell you – I can go home and be happy all night after seeing that,” Neal said. “I know where they’re coming from because I’ve been down that road myself – not because I had bad parents, just because we didn’t have anything, nothing but love.”
People who are interested in partaking in the Dec. 17 meal are asked to call the center, at 919-266-4050, so organizers can get a better idea of how many to expect.