Lowndesboro UMC toy drive, soup cookoff benefits Lowndes County children during holidays

Published 8:12 pm Wednesday, November 16, 2022

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Lowndesboro United Methodist Church hosted their second annual Toys for Tots toy drive on Sunday, collecting over 200 toys for local children.

The event boasted 75 community members in attendance and featured a soup cookoff with 19 soups and all the fixings.

“We try to invite residents from Lowndesboro and the surrounding areas,” said event coordinator Lora Ward. “Everyone comes out with tons of toys and lots of soups.”

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The annual event is a cooperative, interdenominational effort to partner with the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation by supplying toys for Lowndes and Butler County children.

The Lowndes and Butler County Toys for Tots is a not-for-profit charity accepting monetary donations and unwrapped toys valued at $35 or less. Outreach coordinator Michele Sousa worked as a California coordinator for 17 years before coming to Alabama to begin Lowndes and Butler area operations in 2020.

All toys and donations collected for Toys for Tots remain in Lowndes and Butler counties. For Christmas 2021, the organization delivered nearly 10,000 toys to over 2,000 area children and this year, organizers expect to help 3,000 children to have a happy Christmas.

“What we collect goes to our children,” Sousa explained. “Everything collected stays right here, from every penny to every little bouncing ball.”

Area residents may apply to the organization for help at Christmas time. Churches like Lowndesboro UMC distribute applications, which are then collected and forwarded to Sousa’s office. Sousa also partners with law enforcement, first responders, and local utilities to discover families in need of help.

Sousa recalled helping one father last year whose wife died three days before Christmas. An anonymous community member called to let her know. Thanks to Lowndes County donors, she was able to deliver toys to the man’s three young children.

“Anyone who knows of a need can call me to make a referral,” Sousa said. “That man was so proud, not asking for assistance, but the smile on his face when the toys showed up on his doorstep said everything. Lowndes County doesn’t have If a situation hurts your heart, you can be a referral.”

Some years Sousa receives more applications than donations, she noted. In those cases, the national Toys for Tots foundation sends more, so that all requests are met.

“Our children get anywhere from three to five toys,” Sousa explained. “I don’t hold back toys. Last year we collected 10,000 and filled all the applications.”

Dollars collected are spent in the area too, noted Sousa, purchasing toys from local stores for local children.

Toy collections began Nov. 1 and will continue through Dec. 20. Please visit the Lowndes-butler-al.toysfortots.org for a list of collection locations, to donate online, or to apply for assistance.