DUNCAN, Okla._A local organization is celebrating nearly 70 years of service to the Duncan community by putting smiles on children's faces, one gift at a time.
In 1947, the Toy Shop of Duncan was started by Church Women United in hopes of helping children's dreams come true. Starting December 1, needy families can fill out applications for children up to the age of 18 in need of presents for Christmas.
"We say we love to put smiles on kids faces, and to know that we have helped do that really does make a difference in your life," said Kathy Snider, co-chairman.
Snider has been involved with the Toy Shop of Duncan for more than 20 years. She says there are always heartfelt stories, including one this year of a mother down on her luck who called them asking for a bike for her 15-year-old son.
"Just to know that she doesn't want much for her children, and just to know that we are able to help…it was just heartwarming to me that she would come and ask us if we could do something special for her child and that's what we are going to do," Snider said.
Snider says they never get to meet the children they provide the gifts for, but they hope that all 10,000 presents find a home with a child in need.
"We try to, on paper, get to know the children and what their likes and dislikes are. So, we give them a list of all the things and that helps us in being able to fill the box because they know what's available to them," Snider explained.
From boots to basketballs, the shop is fully stocked by monetary donations and donations of new and used toys. For the last four years, Snider says they have a man who makes pull toys and wooden cradles by hand for all of the baby dolls they give away.
"We just asked him if there was a chance that he could make any cradles, and so he said yes. So, he just started making them. He just does it because he loves to do it and he loves to provide for the children. We are so please that he wants to stay with us," Snider said.
They work year-round, like Santa's elves, stocking and organizing the gifts. Shelves and shelves of books are donated by retired elementary school teachers.
"They do that and you can see every single grade is represented, and then we try to give every child a set of books," Snider explained.
Snider says nearly 1,200 children will get gifts this year, and she hopes they'll pay it forward someday.
"As they become adults, they will realize that people were there for them when they were young and that their heart will be touched and that as adults they will continue to carry on that tradition," Snider said.