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Tots hold toy drive

Zion Baptist Church's I-NAM Club is dedicated to helping and caring for the less fortunate

Zion Baptist Church's I-NAM Club is dedicated to helping and caring for the less fortunate

November 28, 2009|By MARIE GILBERT

HAGERSTOWN -- It was early October when Kathy Woodson placed a big cardboard box inside the doorway of Zion Baptist Church and attached a sign asking for toy donations.

Each week, she passed by the box and gradually watched it begin to fill.

First, there were a few books and board games and an occasional doll.

By Nov. 8, it was bursting at the seams.

When the final tally was in, close to 100 toys had been donated to Toys for Tots.

Santa Claus had been given a run for his money.

The toy drive was sponsored by the church's I-NAM Club, a group of young people dedicated to helping and caring for the less fortunate in the community.

I-NAM stands for It's Not About Me, said Woodson, youth director and deaconess at the church.

"Our purpose is to teach children to think outside of themselves and to help others," she said. "Our vision is to reach lost souls by giving a helping hand."

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Woodson said the toy drive is just one of many projects the club has conducted this year.

The group held a car wash in May, with proceeds donated to the City of Hagerstown's Utility Relief Fund. Members also participated in a walk-a-thon for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital and, in September, volunteered at the Convoy of Hope.

Woodson said the club always is looking for new ways to reach out to people in need and discusses potential ideas at monthly meetings.

When members began looking for a holiday project, they quickly selected Toys for Tots, a holiday program sponsored locally by the Marine Corps League's Hagerstown Bulldog Attachment.

"I knew this would be perfect for them," Woodson said. "Who understands the joy of opening a toy on Christmas morning more than a child?"

Woodson said an announcement was made at church requesting donations, but the young members also spread the word to family and friends.

"It really became a word-of-mouth project," she said. "Word of mouth turned into bags of plenty."

Immediately following the Sunday morning service at Zion Baptist Church on Nov. 8, the club hosted a toy drive festival with food and games. During the festival, Jay Koch, a representative of the Hagerstown Bulldog Attachment, was on hand to accept the toys, which the children helped deliver to his vehicle.

Koch said he was overwhelmed by the children's generosity.

"We don't normally get that many toys from anybody -- unless it's a large firm," he said. "I was very impressed."

When he drove away, he said, his Honda Civic was stuffed with toys.

"It was really a good feeling," he said. "For kids to be involved in wanting to help others, it's unusual. The younger generation sometimes seems like the entitlement generation. It's refreshing to see children who have a different attitude. They deserve a lot of credit."

Koch said all of the toys collected during the Toys for Tots drive will be delivered to children in Washington County before Christmas.

"It was an awesome experience," Woodson said. "It's something I think all of the young people will remember. They were very proud of themselves. There was a real sense of accomplishment."

Naomi Smith, 11, was among the club members who participated in the toy delivery.

"It made me feel happy to give to others," she said. "Whenever you give to others, you'll be blessed. There is joy in giving."

Alika Benjamin-Elliott, 10, said she checked the toy box every time she came to church and was excited to see it eventually overflow.

"I think it's important to give toys to children who might not have toys on Christmas morning," she said.

Nina Smith, 7, also liked the idea of helping others.

"I've learned that it's not always about me," she said.

Rochelle Brown, one of the adult leaders of the group, thought the toy drive was a valuable experience for all of the children involved.

"Children are so used to receiving," she said. "It's good to show them the rewards of giving and how you don't always have to be on the receiving end to feel good."

Nia Brown, 6, said she already has a Christmas list ready for Santa. But she also said she liked the fact that other children would be getting something special for the holidays thanks to the club's efforts.

"I like helping people," she said.

With the toy drive behind them, Woodson said the club is looking ahead to other service projects, including a food bank block party and a fundraising fashion show.

"We want to teach children to have hearts that are loving, not hearts of stone," Woodson said. "When they become adults, they'll keep pressing forward with the lessons of giving."

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