Motorcycles and hot rods hit the highway Saturday, spreading Christmas cheer, with gifts in tow, as part of the 19th annual Toy Run, to benefit the Henry F. Selcer Memorial Empty Stocking Fund.
“It’s always successful. It’s a lot of fun,” Empty Stocking Fund Director Lea McGee said. “I love doing that every year.”
The event is organized by the Rusty Lug Nuts car club. Organizer Donald Reeves said about 50 bikers and car enthusiasts from the local and surrounding areas participate.
The groups met for light refreshments and fellowship at Heritage House on State Highway 31 before proceeding on the Toy Run route. The procession was led by Marshall police escort, taking them from Hwy. 31, to Airport Road, to U.S. Highway 80 east, and around Loop 390 before ending at the toy drop off site.
“It’s a huge, big help,” said McGee. “People come and they all bring different things. It really helps me when I’m giving the toys away and have a variety.”
Participants brought unwrapped toys for the Empty Stocking Fund, which has been “filling empty stockings” for Harrison County children in need since 1914.
McGee said they hope to provide Christmas for at least 300 children and possibly more that she’s had to put on a waiting list.
“I have a waiting list,” she said. “I’m trying to get kids sponsored and things bought so we can (add) more kids.”
McGee and Empty Stocking Fund volunteers have done most of the shopping, so far. Wish lists range from WWE title belts to LOL dolls and computer tablets.
“We’ve been going and buying some of these things,” said McGee.
For the most part, everything is going well, but they can always use more sponsorship for the Empty Stocking angels that are listed on the website and also on the charity’s Facebook page, she said.
“I’m happy to do the shopping for people, but if I can get all of those angels online sponsored by Wednesday, then I can call some of the people on my wait list,” said McGee.
“I keep trying to get people to sponsor the angels,” she said.
She said technology has made sponsorship simple nowadays, thanks to online shopping. “The young generation doesn’t have checkbooks, just debit cards. They can order stuff on Amazon,” she said. “Literally, that’s how an angel was sponsored from Nashville, Tennessee.
If someone chooses to online shop for any unsponsored angel, they can contact the Empty Stocking Fund for the shipping address.
“That’s an option to get people thinking about it,” said McGee. “When you’re on Amazon shopping for your family or anywhere online, pick you out an angel and you don’t even have to pick out something at the store.”
McGee said in addition to sponsorship, volunteers are always needed as well.
“We’ll be at Walmart the next two weekends asking for donations so we need workers there,” she said. “We always need workers to help us with the boxes.”
In addition to wants, the angels are supplied with a few needs. Needs this year included coats, jackets, shoes, clothes and baby beds.
“We have a lot of babies that could use a swing or things like that,” said McGee.
McGee said Walmart has been an invaluable partner this season, helping provide a baby bed, mattresses and several bikes from their old stock.
“Bikes are one of the biggest wishes for the children,” said McGee.
“Walmart has been giving us all of the bikes that are somewhat damaged, or dirty tires or chains fell off or whatever, so we have volunteers working on bikes,” she said.
“The things they have donated are going to allow us to give so many children bikes that we have never been able to do before,” said McGee. “We’re probably going to give away 75 bikes — maybe more. They’re working hard on them.”
Walmart has also been generous with other donations, such as easy bake ovens that didn’t make it on shelves.
“We’ve been getting literally pallets of stuff,” said McGee. “Instead of them destroying these things they’ve been giving them to us, so we have some really nice things to give away this year.”
McGee said she feels good about this season, and looks forward to hopefully helping many more families.
“We’re on a good pace to get everything done timely and efficiently, to get everything they want,” she said.
Donations can be dropped off to the Empty Stocking’s current office in the former Trinity Episcopal Preschool School building, located at 107 N. Grove St in Marshall, or at the former Marshall Scrubs site, next to Subway in the 1200 block of E. Grand Avenue. McGee said Meadowbrook Funeral Home and Action Towing are also collecting toys for the charity.
“We would like everything in no later than Dec. 17, at the latest,” said McGee. “We give everything away on Dec. 19.”
McGee said she thanks realtor Clay Allen for donating the drop off location space on Grand Avenue.
“I can’t even say how grateful we are for that because we have to have somewhere to work to even be able to do the program,” she said.
She also thanked Trinity for the office space.
“Trinity has given us an office space year-round where we have a home,” she said.
McGee said she’s always grateful for her volunteers.
“I couldn’t do anything without them,” she said.
For more information on how to donate, sponsor or volunteer, call the Empty Stocking Fund at 903-472-8649.
For a list of “angels” that still need sponsorship this year, visit the organization’s Facebook page, the Henry F. Selcer Memorial Empty Stocking Fund, or website at http://www.emptystockingmarshall.org/