Toys for Tots seeking donations to provide area families with Christmas cheer

by Jo Anne Embleton

Coordinators for Cherokee County’s Toys for Tots campaign are appealing to local residents for contributions to ensure every family on their list has gifts for Christmas this year.

“People have always been so generous with giving, but this year, it seems a little different,” said Juana Gobea, program coordinator. “We really are stressing out on donations right now – last year around this time, we had already filled so many bags and picking up toys because the boxes were full. This year, we don’t have that many toys yet to fill orders, and we’re asking people to please help us out this year.”

The U.S. Marine Corps Reserve founded the Christmas campaign in 1947, spreading cheer in communities throughout the nation by providing Christmas gifts for families who might not otherwise be able to afford them.

In Cherokee County, an annual campaign has ensured that hundreds of children have a good holiday.

“Our prayer is that we can share a little more love and hope to people during the season that represents the greatest gift ever given, and in doing so lift up Jesus Christ, the hope that is eternal,” said John Atkinson, pastor of Peoples Church in Jacksonville, which serves as a staging area for the local campaign, as well as for Jacksonville’s Children’s Christmas Tree project. “We are honored to come alongside these organizations in sharing gifts with families.”

Gobea, her husband Jesse and their family are members of the church, and Gobea is actively involved with Marine Corps League Jacksonville Texas Det.# 1381, which oversees the local toy campaign.

“When Juana approached me about being a collection point for toys, as well as using the ‘ARK,’ as we call it, to organize and distribute toys to families at Christmas, it was an easy yes!” Atkinson said. “Part of our mission at PC is to minister to the Jacksonville community and surrounding areas with the love of Christ by serving others. Sometimes we do that by finding a need that is underserved and becoming a part of the solution. Other times, we do that by coming along side other organizations that are meeting a need and supporting them with facilities, funds, volunteers, etc. Why reinvent the wheel when we can use the resources we have to further enhance already great ministry opportunities?”

Both he and Gobea noted that the church has partnered with the Marine Corps League for several years on the project, which she said collected more than 4,000 toys, which were distributed to approximately 900 children.

That list includes families in Henderson, which is part of the coverage area for the campaign.

Boxes are set up throughout Cherokee County and in Henderson. New, unwrapped toys, books and other gifts are being accepted through Sunday, Dec. 12, the day they will be distributed at Peoples Church, located at 14089 US Hwy. 79 East in Jacksonville.

Funds may be donated electronically by visiting and clicking on the “donate online” button.