Business owners and community leaders in Hyde Park staged a heartfelt outreach on Wednesday, touching hundreds of children who came out for the 2nd Annual Toys & Coats Giveaway.
More than 400 children made their way to 2065 Chelsea Ave. for the event presented by Partners in Unity. A Santa that looked like them was waiting with hugs and smiles.
The toys and presents were given in far greater quantity than last year, a principal said.
“At our 1st Annual Toy Giveaway, it was very cold and rainy,” said Marvin Coleman, owner of Chelsea Auto Mart and president of Partners in Unity. “All those children came out to pick out toys. But we looked at their feet. They were in flip-flops and house shoes with no socks. Many of them had no coat. We had to do something about that.”
This year, 1,000 new toys were distributed, along with hundreds of coats, hats, scarves, gloves and socks.
“We gave away more than 200 hats, scarves and gloves,” said Coleman. “We also distributed more than 300 coats and 780 pairs of socks. These are basic needs we’re talking about. They were some happy children, and that made us happy.
“Our children need to see that we, as a community, don’t need to depend on the government. We can depend on each other. We are our brother’s keeper.”
State Rep. Antonio Parkinson was on hand to help with the giveaway and greet families who came out to enjoy the event, where hot dogs, soda and Christmas goodies were also available.
“People are going through one of the worst periods in their lives,” said Parkinson. “They’ve lost breadwinners and loved ones in this pandemic and the holiday will never be the same. We are not powerless as a community. We are not a dependent people. We are independent. Our children must see strong business people and leaders addressing the needs of our people.”
Alfred Washington, the owner of Top Notch Security and vice-president of Partners in Unity, agreed.
“In this poverty-driven community, the residents are predominantly Black,” said Washington. “It’s important for children to see men and women who look like them owning businesses and giving back to the community. It’s especially important for them to see strong, caring men meeting their needs. So many households are missing fathers. We are their fathers – community fathers.”
To date, over 2,700 boxes of food have been distributed by the Partners in Unity organization. Two holiday toy drives and three back-to-school events have been sponsored for Hyde Park and other North Memphis communities.
More food boxes will be distributed after the first of the year, thanks to a partnership with the Mid-South Food Bank, said Coleman.