Local nonprofit holds ‘Holly Jolly Toy Store’ to empower struggling parents

HOUSTON – A local nonprofit hoped to empower local parents who may be struggling this holiday season.

The Forge for Families hosted the Holly Jolly Toy Store to offer a chance for parents to shop for new discounted gifts for their families with the focus of giving parents dignity, honor and respect.

“It’s the one time of year we get to come alongside our families and provide an opportunity to provide Christmas with dignity and expand their Christmas budget,” said Pastor and Executive Director Dana Thomas.

At their headquarters on Dixie Street, the nonprofit held a socially distant shopping experience. Their gym was filled with hundreds of new toys and gift cards from churches and people all over the country.

“[The gifts] have all been significantly discounted so what might normally cost them $100 at the store would only cost them $25 tonight,” Thomas said.

Afterschool Director Chantel Mack said it is her favorite part of the year. She said it’s all about three things.

“Dignity, honor and respect. It’s one thing for a family to see me come to their door and go, ‘Here look at this Christmas I purchased for you!’ It’s a whole other thing though when a mom or dad that morning can present their kids with something they purchased with their hard-earned money.”

For one mother of six who takes care of everyone, this means a lot.

“With COVID-19 going on, I work at the hospital,” Ericka Warren said.

This store brings peace.

“[My husband and I] went from both of us working to just me working. My husband is really sick, so for us to be able to get something for our kids, it means a lot,” Warren said.

Warren cannot wait to see her children’s faces.

“I already know when my son sees PJ Masks, he’s going to be super excited,” Warren said with a smile.

“The boys will definitely love this hockey table,” said another mother Tiffany Williams. “The first thing they’re probably going to do is run outside to the neighborhood kids and say, ‘Hey, let’s play!’”

While there were plenty of toys, these families all knew, it was about so much more.

“That there are people out there that believe in them that are hoping for them, helping them through a different time,” Thomas said.

“The spirit of giving. The spirit of love and community,” Williams said.

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