Vehicles steadily pulled through the back lot Saturday evening at the Hiway 80 Rescue Mission to have their trunks filled with bags of toys.
The Longview mission hosted a drive-thru Family Christmas Giveaway for families in need this holiday season.
Managing Executive Director Brian Livingston said Hiway 80 traditionally holds a family Christmas dinner where staff members hands out gifts to children. That plan was not possible this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Livingston said the staff decided it could still meet the needs of families by having a drive-thru event. Cars lined down West Marshall Avenue and drove around the back of the building.
The vehicles’ path was lined with Christmas lights and decorations as well as a visit from Santa and Mrs. Claus.
Livingston said about 200 families registered in Longview and Tyler, and, overall, about 800 children received gifts from the mission’s toy drive.
They toys were then divided into groups based on age and gender and given to families at random, Livingston said.
“As far as how the families are selected, they just come to us and tell us they have a need, and we sign them up and take the age and gender of their children and prepare the toys for them,” he said. “We were determined that we were still going to do some sort of event this year. This is probably our fifth, sixth plan that we’ve gone through, but we just knew we had to make something happen to minister to these families and children.”
Volunteers such as Rebecca Hamby and her family spent time this week dividing up toys and helped load them into cars Saturday.
“It’s just something I’ve been wanting to do, and for my son to see there are some that are less fortunate than others,” she said. “He had a blast. He couldn’t wait to come back.”
Hamby’s son, Maverick, said he enjoyed volunteering for the first time. Rebecca said they went to buy toys to donate, and he enjoyed picking toys for boys his age.
Livingston said at one point this past week, staff members were not sure they would have enough toys, but the community made the event possible.
“It’s incredible that the community stepped up the way they did to provide the toys,” he said. “We even had toys coming in today. It’s been really incredible to see God work ... and to be able to still provide this ministry even in this crazy, chaotic year that we’ve had.”