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Presbyterian Children's Services offers Christmas help filling stockings

By Angela Ward
Dec. 18, 2012 at 10 p.m.

KILGORE - Parents who experienced financial setbacks in November or early December and missed the deadline to sign up with agencies providing Christmas gifts got a last-minute chance Tuesday.

Presbyterian Children's Services - within First Presbyterian Church of Kilgore - hosted a Christmas Store stocked with presents ranging from baby toys to teen-sized bikes. Qualifying parents or guardians could select two items for each child in their household.

"This is a lifesaver," said Phyllis Johnson, who was selecting presents for her two youngest children, a 13-year-old girl and an eight-year-old boy. "My kids wouldn't have had anything to open on Christmas morning if it weren't for these people providing gifts."

Johnson was selecting from among dolls, balls, board games, Legos, puzzles, art kits, stuffed animals and a host of other presents. She chose a computer and makeup kit for her daughter, and an action figure and box of Legos for her son.

Sondra Edwards, organizer of the event, said donations came from Presbyterian churches in Longview and Kilgore and from local companies and a fishing club. Almost all the presents were new.

"There was obvious a definite need for this," Edwards said. "We opened at 9 a.m. and when I arrived at 8:30 a.m. there were already people waiting in line."

People who requested gifts for the children in their household had to meet income qualifications and couldn't be receiving gifts from other agencies, like Toys for Tots or the Salvation Army, she said. About 60 kids from 25 families were served in the first three hours the event was opened.

"We recently joined the Elf Coalition, so we could make sure families requesting help here weren't also getting toys from other agencies," Edwards said. "We did find three families who were already on the lists of other agencies; when we pointed out that they'd already received gifts this Christmas, they left without a fuss. However, most people who came were truly in need and very grateful for our assistance."

Sherian Alexander was selecting gifts for her four-year-old granddaughter and teenage son, both of whom live with her.

"I'm out of work and after I pay for things like rent and utilities and food, there's just not money left over for presents," Alexander said. "I'm trying to get rehired, but until that time I really appreciate having this help at Christmastime."

The store will be open for its final few hours from 9 a.m. to noon today.



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