FORSYTH COUNTY -- The community building of Freedom Tabernacle Church will look like a giant toy store over the next few weeks as it hosts The Place of Forsyth County’s annual Holiday House.
Last week, a ribbon cutting ceremony was held for the second year of the program so volunteers could see the result of their work and donations.
The Holiday House allows parents dealing with hardships who have previously registered to use a set number of points to “buy” donated Christmas gifts for their children. The nonprofit emergency services provider’s youth coordinator, Naomi Byrne, said donations from the community will serve thousands of local children.
“We qualify families by income to come in for their kids for Christmas,” Byrne said. “As we qualify them, we have over 2,000 children that we have qualified that we will provide Christmas through the Holiday House for in Forsyth County.
“It’s definitely been a community initiative; everybody has helped. We have collected about 8,000 toys and are still counting.”
Gifts were accepted for children up to age 18, as long as they were still in school, and split into rooms by age and gender.
“We have gotten a lot of bikes; everyone usually likes those,” Byrne said. “In our teen area, we’ve received jewelry for the girls, headphones and things for the boys, gift cards for them, clothing. Elementary school also, the girls have received Barbies, a few clothes. Elementary school boys; the same thing, trucks and Legos. Then, we have a preschool area and infants also.”
Not all items donated were toys — some were holiday decorations and treats for the activity center, where kids will play and be entertained as parents go through the donations.
“Then also, some have donated the snacks for the activity center,” Byrne said. “They’ve donated the gift wrap for the parents. We’ve had five live trees donated, as well as the live wreaths that the families can take home with them if they want it.”
Joni Smith, executive director of The Place, told volunteers and supporters the Holiday House would not be able to exist without input from the community.
“This is a community initiative,” Smith said. “We happen to be the lead agency, but I can’t begin to tell you the number of churches, all of schools that have stepped up and all of the businesses and neighborhoods and communities that have just wrapped their arm around this event.”