NiHara Shorter, left, and NiZareyon Harris both sit Santa’s lap as John Booth plays the role of the jolly old elf during Saturday’s to drive. For donations to the toy drive for foster children, call the Voices for Children offices in Pine Bluff at (870) 536-5922. (Special to the Commercial/William Harvey)
Members of the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department Reserve Unit teamed up with Voices for Children, CALL and the Arkansas Department of Human Services on Saturday to try and make Christmas brighter for children in foster care in Jefferson County.
The Sheriff’s Department Mobile Command Post was parked between the entrances of the Walmart Supercenter and served as a drop-off point for toys and monetary donations to benefit the kids.
“It’s going good and we’ve got a lot of toys so far,” Reserve Lt. Guy Oaks said Saturday afternoon.
This was the second year that the reserve unit has been involved in the toy drive, which Oaks said came about when members got involved with the work of CALL (Children of Arkansas Loved for a Lifetime).
“We’re going to make this an annual deal,” Oaks said, explaining that each foster child is asked to fill out a wish list and reserve deputies and members of the other organizations involved will do their best to try and fill at least three of the children’s wishes this Christmas.
Kim Smith, director of Voices for Children, said some agencies are able to find sponsors such as churches and individuals for some of the children in foster care who take care of the gift giving, “but it seems like the closer we get to Christmas, the more children get placed in foster care so there’s a greater need for donations because by then, it’s too late to find sponsors.”
She said the agencies are seeking not only toys for younger children, but also gifts for teenagers such as bath and body products and costume jewelry for girls and flashlights and small tools for teenage boys.
“We also like to put small things like socks, candy and personal items into the gift bags,” Smith said.
In addition, she said that while many people like to buy toys for girls, fewer think about toys for young boys.
“It seems like every year we end up with dozens of Barbie dolls but no trucks or cars for boys,” she said. “We’re also seeking dolls of both races for girls.”
A work day is set for Dec. 8 when volunteers will sort the toys and pack them for the more than 200 children currently in foster care in Jefferson County, then reserve deputies will deliver the toys.
“We would love to have people come help us do that but they need to call ahead to get information about it,” Smith said, adding that people interested in helping can call her at 329-7976.
Oaks said while deputies will not dress up in Santa suits to make the deliveries, they will see to it that all the toys are delivered before Christmas.