Skip and Annette Emerson were inspired to create the initiative after the latter connected with someone from Your Food Shelf, a food pantry in Camden that serves about 1,500 people in need.
“Our church is a big believer in giving back and helping those less fortunate, and that’s what Your Food Shelf is all about,” Steve Emerson said. “They struck up a friendship and got talking about how a lot of kids just don’t have that great of a Christmas, and my mom suggested, ‘Well, let’s get a toy drive going.’”
Since Steve’s parents have passed away, he and his wife Mary have carried the torch.
“The church, as I expected, has been just incredibly generous over the years,” he said. “I’ve got like those giant, construction trash bags, a few of them, just filled with toys.”
A donation box sits in the church lobby and Emerson is always grateful to see it overflowing.
“It’s a good thing to do around this time of year,” he noted. “It’s something that … acts of charity or acts of kindness would be nice if they continued throughout the year.”
“The world is a tough place to live right now,” Emerson added. “You turn on the news every morning and someone got shot somewhere. This is a small way to kind of counterbalance that and do something good for people.”
Emerson is moved by seeing the community give what it can.
“It can bring you to tears sometimes; people are just so generous with their giving, especially in Moorestown, where we have so much,” he remarked. “It’s good for people to recognize that we have a lot, and so many people have very little.”
“ … It’s tough for people to make ends meet, so if we can provide a little joy for the kids, it’s well worth it.”
A variety of toys are collected, including dolls, puzzles, LEGOs and board games.
Emerson encourages parents to teach their children the spirit of giving, something his parents did for him and his three younger brothers.
“Charity begins at home, so you have to instill those values,” he said. “ … You do it by example. They see us give, they in turn learn to give.”
For Emerson, collecting toys wouldn’t be possible without help from all involved.
“It takes a village,” he said. “It wouldn’t be much of a toy drive if we just collected toys but didn’t have any place to give them to, so Your Food Shelf really stepped up and said, ‘We’ll be on the receiving end.’”