Family keeps toy drive going
By Denise Baran-Unland Correspondent December 7, 2012 1:20PM
The Mabry family in 2008 at their toy distribution. Back row left to right are: Terrance, Kiana, Nanece and Kimece. In front is Keirra. SUBMITTED PHOTOS
Updated: January 10, 2013 6:20AM
Buying and collecting Christmas presents for 350 children might daunt even Santa Claus, but with three in-house elves to help shop and pack, Terrance and Kimece Mabry of Joliet are certain their family’s Saturday toy distribution will run smoothly.
Collectively, the family insists they are doing nothing special.
“We just want people to give toys to the little kids who don’t have any,” said Kiana Mabry, 9.
For five years, the Mabry family has single-handedly organized a toy drive and distributed those gifts through Singleton Social Center in Joliet, formerly known as the Hill Memorial Learning Center. For Terrance, who felt God long ago had inspired him to conduct it, this is a vision come true.
“I used to think I had to have a certain lifestyle, a certain amount of money, or ties with certain people before I could do this, but I got tired of putting it off,” Terrance said. “Finally I said, ‘Well, let’s put it out there and run with it.’”
The toy drive focuses on children ages 1 through 12; however, the Mabrys will give away infant toys if they receive some. The Mabrys start with three toys apiece per child but will increase that amount if they accumulate enough.
Donations usually arrive all year, so the Mabrys store the gifts — toys, board games, dolls and sports balls — until needed.
“We’ve given away dry erase boards and sometimes we’re able to bless a family with a bike,” Kimece said. “We’ve never been given anything we couldn’t give away and we’ve never turned a family away.”
In early December, the Mabrys use monetary donations to shop for even more presents. Department stores that remain open for 24 hours are Kimece’s best friends because she will need at least 20 hours of shopping time to get the job done. Kimece’s three daughters often accompany her on the buying expeditions.
“I like to help my mom decide what toys to choose,” said Keirra Mabry, 13. “I don’t get tired of doing it. I wish I could do it all the time.”
A week before the distribution, the Mabrys receive the list of families. They select gifts based on the ages and sexes of the children and then sort them, unwrapped, into large black trash bags. This way, the recipient parents can experience firsthand the joy of wrapping holiday presents.
“It’s a lot of work and when it gets down to crunch time, it might get kind of stressful and hard,” Kanece Mabry, 17, said. “But then we get Dunkin Donuts for everyone and it all works out.”
On distribution day, the Mabrys don Santa hats and work together to distribute the gift bags to the eager families. The girls spend some of the time circulating around the room and occupying antsy children with coloring books. Terrance feels his family gains more from the experience than their recipients do.
“We’re a very humble family,” Terrance said. “We get our joy from watching how happy others are when they get their bags of toys, that they get to take them home, give them to their kids and hear them say, ‘Oh, wow!’”
Bring donations to the Singleton Social Center, 402 Singleton Drive, Joliet. For more information call 815-723-0942. However, Kanece said, only donate if your heart moves you to do so.
“I think people should donate because they want to be a blessing to a family,” Kanece said. “They should never feel forced into it.”