By Elsa Maxey
The Exchange Club of Sugar Land, Toys for Tots, Sugar Land Rotary and the Exchange Club of Fort Bend along with so many other volunteers are responsible for bringing needy children Christmas cheer this year. This past Saturday at First Colony Church of Christ on First Colony Boulevard in Sugar Land over 5,000 children were provided with toys that would have otherwise not come their way.
Imagine their faces! Santa Claus and a bunch of volunteers, the elves, were all part of the entertainment that included games and fun craft projects. Parents, sent an invitation to visit had signed up on the Toys for Tots website and were helped by elves, as they “shopped” for three new toys for each child, while the kids were being entertained.
“This process is so unique, nobody gives toys like this,” said Farha Ahmed, co-chair of the Exchange Club of Sugar Land noting that this turns out to be a shopping experience, not a hand out, and a good fit of the donated and purchased toys for the children, and also for older kids, like teenagers, who get gift cards. Ahmed said any left over toys are donated to places like Bethel Ministries, the Fort Bend Women’s Center and other agencies that have toy drives.
Almost going on 20 years, the renamed Toys for Tots/Santa’s Exchange this year was a huge success, reports Sue Lockwood with the Exchange Club of Sugar Land. She credits the cooperation of all the service agencies, co-chairs Farha Ahmed and Kevin Barker, along with Sugar Land resident Carolyn Tarver from Project S.M.I.L.E. for the tremendous effort that manifests itself as the genuine meaning of the Christmas season.
Since 1995, the Santa Exchange further took root in the Fort Bend community after Tarver in 1983 founded and initiated Project S.M.I.L.E. – Stan’s Memory Includes Loving Everyone – a tribute to her teenage son, killed in an accident. Spreading cheer to needy families at Christmas time is how Tarver began it, personally purchasing and gifting toys to about a dozen disadvantaged children the first year. What later followed was experienced this year and so many others previously with the gift giving to thousands of needy children.
With over 1,000 volunteers from local community service clubs, students from high schools and church volunteers assisting, this project is no doubt about celebrating the season of giving with service beyond self.