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By DAVE HINTON
Rantoul Press editor
One area resident was driving with her husband on Grove Avenue in Rantoul and remarked that she didn’t know what they were going to do this Christmas. They couldn’t afford presents for their children.
A few blocks later she had an answer.
Another woman, with tears in her eyes, said this would be the first Christmas she could afford to bring food to her family gathering.
A group from St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, Gifford, was caught doing good last week when they gave away between 250 and 300 toys as well as gift cards from Wal-Mart to passersby.
The only qualification for people to be on the receiving end was to indicate a need.
Gary Maxwell, director of youth and family ministries at St. Paul’s, plus two adult helpers and two high school students handed out the items in the parking lot of the Presbyterian Church in Rantoul.
“They let us use their parking lot and their indoor facilities,” Maxwell said. “It’s a good location for us right in the middle of town.”
It took less than two hours for the items to vanish into the hands of grateful parents.
The woman who told her husband she didn’t know how they could afford Christmas presents this year said after she spied the giveaway, “I told my husband, ‘This is too good to be true,’” Maxwell said.
She wasn’t the only person wondering how they were going to afford Christmas gifts.
“Almost all of them said they couldn’t afford the toys,” Maxwell said. “Many of them said, ‘I didn’t know what I was going to do.’”
In some cases the husband or wife couldn’t work due to illness or surgery. Others were without jobs.
The church gave no advance notice about the toy giveaway other than an item on the bulletin board at Community Service Center in Rantoul.
“As soon as we put the sign up (at the church) saying ‘free toys,’ we had 10 cars in the parking lot,” Maxwell said.
The spirit of good will prevailed.
One parent went to grab an item, and another parent was looking at the same item and said, “Oh, I wanted to get that for my boy,” Maxwell said.
The other parent let the second parent have the item and said, “‘You take it. Merry Christmas’” Maxwell said.
The St. Paul’s volunteers set out the toys according to age and whether they were for boys or girls.
“They were on the honor system to take what they thought they needed,” Maxwell said. “We tried to talk to each person and see who they were looking for and what age group. Once people start talking about their kids, they can talk all day.”
The toys came from donations given by members of St. Paul’s and from Gifford Grade School.
“Some parents bought new toys (for the giveaway), some were used and some filled stockings,” Maxwell said.
The church has been in the giving spirit this year. For a back-to-school project this year, St. Paul’s held a school back pack drive for Ludlow Grade School.
Maxwell said the church sponsored the toy-gift card giveaway as an encouragement.
“We like to encourage people (to see) how much the Lord has blessed them,” he said, “and to pass that blessing on to someone else.”