Through his involvement with numerous nonprofits and community service groups, Roger Brantley knows about as well as anybody there are people in need of assistance in the local area.
“Poverty is real on this end of the county,” Brantley said. “This year, we had more kids sign up for free and reduced lunch locally than anywhere else in Wake County. The Brown Bag Lunch Ministry is doing 1,000 brown bag lunches per week now. Bread for Life of America and Interfaith Food Shuttle’s Mobile Market are doing another 1,000 lunches once a month on weekends at the Boys & Girls Club in Zebulon.”
Brantley used those food-related examples to make the point that many of the same people need help providing children with gifts at Christmas. The local SHARE outreach ministry he co-founded and the Purple Shoe Thrift Shoppe teamed up again this year to offer a helping hand.
The Purple Shoe, a Zebulon-based Domestic Violence Outreach Store, collected items for a localized version of Toys for Tots over the past month. Central Baptist, Wakefield Central Baptist and Zebulon United Methodist churches and Walgreens held their own toy drives to contribute to the effort.
The returns from those drives and more toys supplied by the official Marine Corps Toys for Tots program made it possible for 375 children who live in public housing in Wendell and Zebulon to receive several gifts each on Saturday.
“If it wasn’t for the churches, we’d probably be desperate,” Brantley said. “I think it’s two toys per child through the Marine Corps, and I think it’s closer to four (toys) thanks to the churches.”
The groups also reached out to local public schools and social workers to identify other children who could benefit from the annual charity.
Organizers dedicated this year’s toy drive in memory of Diamond Selver, a Zebulon teen who passed away Dec. 10.
Selver, Brantley said, was an active supporter of the local Jesus in the Park and Swimming to Jesus programs, the Brown Bag Lunch Ministry and the youth ministry at East Wake Church of God.
“She was always wanting to help no matter what she had going on in her life,” Brantley said. “(The toy drive) will probably be in her name and memory from now on – Diamond’s Toys for Tots.”
The toy drive continues this week, even though most gifts were distributed Saturday.
Anyone interested in donating a new or gently-used toy can look for the large, purple donation bin at the Purple Shoe, located at 407 W. Gannon Ave.
“We’re probably going to have some families that come along who are taking care of grandkids or who have more kids, so if people want to donate toys at the Purple Shoe through Christmas Day, that will help,” Brantley said. “We always find families through the nonprofits we’re partnered with, who could always use some assistance.”