Toys for Tots expecting to give Christmas gifts to twice as many Horry County families in need during pandemic

Grand Strand

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WBTW) – An Horry County nonprofit that gives Christmas presents to children says it’s worried about surviving during the pandemic.

Toys for Tots of Horry County will store thousands of donated gifts for kids at the Food Lion off 38th Avenue North. Gwen Reed, who’s the coordinator for the county’s Toys for Tots program, says she was concerned the toys couldn’t be stored there because of extra space needed due to COVID-19 and was searching for a new location.

Reed says, however, she found out Wednesday afternoon that the donations will be allowed to stay at the Food Lion. A local program must have a physical location to store donations in order to be a part of Toys for Tots.

While this one issue appears resolved, there are other concerns, as the group is expecting many more families will need help this holiday season.

“I’ve been with this program for seven years and a lot of people think it’s the gifts, but to me, Toys for Tots is about fostering hope,” Reed said.

Reed says she’s determined to give all Horry County families the Christmas they deserve, especially after such a tough year.

“With the economy in the state that it’s in, with Horry County being a tourist area that lives off hospitality, we know that people were unable to make what they usually make,” she said.

Charities like food banks have helped many more people during the coronavirus pandemic. That’s especially because of skyrocketing unemployment across the country.

Toys for Tots gave gifts to more than 20,000 kids in Horry County in 2019 and Reed says that could double this year.

“We will probably have people that wouldn’t usually sign up for Toys for Tots signing up and we want to meet those needs,” said Reed. “We don’t want to turn any family away.”

It’s an already tough time for Horry County’s branch of Toys for Tots. The group was short thousands of dollars in donations it received last year.

A new challenge this year will be how to safely collect, as well as give the gifts, and Reed says volunteers will start training early.

“Before, we would line them up as much as we can in our intake area and let them come in,” she said. “This year, we’re going to have to be more strategic in how we distribute, what we take in and what we handle.”

Still, Reed says 2020 is an important year to get into the holiday spirit even earlier.

“I believe that Christmas is the one day that a child should see that,” said Reed. “Yes, we have went through some hard times and this has been a year. Kids have went through so many things.”

You can go to the Horry County page on the Toys for Tots website to donate money or to apply for toys. You can also contact the county’s Toys for Tots program on its Facebook page if you want to help in other ways.

Reed says toy donation boxes will be at businesses all over the county starting Oct. 1.

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