Alice Coleman speaks from experience when she says it is impossible to shake the memory of seeing a child go without a Christmas present.
“I can’t handle the thought of kids waking up on Christmas without some toys,” said Coleman, a former social worker.
Coleman is also the founder of The Purple Shoe Thrift Shoppe, the Zebulon-based Domestic Violence Outreach Store that is one of several partners in an initiative to get presents to as many children in the local area as possible this holiday.
A local Toys for Tots drive, targeting children in Wendell and Zebulon – but also in Cary, Garner, Louisburg, Middlesex and several surrounding counties – will culminate in a large-scale giveaway in Zebulon Saturday, Dec. 12.
A growing number of children have been identified by local housing and enrichment services for the event, which will serve four or five rounds of Christmas at Todd Park over a six-hour window. The event is also expected to incorporate horses with opportunities for rides arranged by HT Ranch and Stables, and a constant cycle of local pastors sharing the message at the site off Mack Todd Road.
With Toys for Tots supplying two gifts per child, The Purple Shoe and the local SHARE outreach ministry decided to backfill the operation by way of local toy drives and solicitations from area daycares.
“I’d hate for someone to drive from Garner just to get two toys, so we’re trying to have something extra there for them,” said SHARE co-founder Roger Brantley.
As part of SHARE, Hephzibah Baptist Church is helping decorate the event site, Wakefield Central Baptist is collecting toys and clothing and Dew 4 Him Ministries is preparing booster bags for parents who attend. Trinity Ministries of Nash County is also bringing items for the drive.
Brantley on Wednesday said it wouldn’t surprise him if 500 children have already been signed up, and that count doesn’t include others who may show up and aren’t on his list.
“You have to expect the unexpected,” Brantley said. “Five hundred may be a mild statement. It may be more than that.”
That means the cause needs as many donations as it can get.
While the collection bin at The Purple Shoe had been cleared a few times since first displayed Nov. 1, there were only a handful of donations last week. As an incentive to increase activity in the toy tub, Coleman began offering a drawing for a $50 gift card to her shop to anyone who makes a donation.
“In Zebulon and Wendell, we as a community should be aware and caring enough to not let children go without presents in our community,” Coleman said. “We can’t control what goes on in New York, but we can control what goes on in our community. If everybody would give one thing, then we could do it.”
Donations for the upcoming giveaway can be dropped off at The Purple Shoe, located at 407 W. Gannon Ave., Zebulon. The store can be reached at 919-269-0109.
The Purple Shoe is also holding a toy drive Dec. 19-20 in a subdivision in Raleigh to supplement the Toys for Tots initiative, to supply local children with gifts for Christmas Day.
“It’s all coming back to the Wendell/Zebulon area,” Coleman said. “We basically just use our agency to reach out where we think people have the resources and we go to them to make it easier. We just try to be resourceful to bring things back into the area.”