A local non-profit has plans to provide Christmas gifts for thousands of local children in need.
The Place of Forsyth County’s third annual Holiday House aims to provide gifts to more than 2,000 children in need in Forsyth County at Freedom Tabernacle on Freedom Parkway. The house opened Thursday and will go through Saturday. A tour was held on Wednesday.
“We give them a time over the next three days for the parents to come and select gifts for their children,” said Executive Director Joni Smith. “This is not an event for the children. We have a special room where they stay, and unless they’re an infant or a screamer, we don’t let them back. We want the parents to really, in a dignified way, to be able to provide Christmas for their children.”
Inside the Holiday House, gifts donated by the community are sorted in rooms by age and gender. Parents will be given an allotment of points to select presents for their children.
“We set the rooms up pretty much by school age,” Smith said. “It’s on a point system. Every child is given a set number of points, and the toys are all divided into those points. So, if you want to have a lot of smaller gifts on Christmas, that’s your prerogative. If you want a bicycle, then you don’t get as many gifts.”
There is a children’s area with fun activities and crafts, though Smith said most parents don’t bring their kids to keep it a surprise.
The Holiday House tries to provide the entire Christmas experience, not just toys.
“We do give away decorations that are used decorations,” Smith said. “So, we have a lot of wreaths that have been given to us. We just want to ask the family, ‘do you have a wreath? Do you have decorations?’ And they get to select some.”
The event also supplies the families with wrapping paper and other items.
One of the first things visitors will notice is a room filled with teddy bears. Smith said a local retailer had donated 2,000 and joked that every child would receive one “whether they want it or not.”
Smith said all families who receive gifts live in Forsyth County and have gone through a screening process. Schools and non-profits help The Place find out who is in need.
“There are more that we need to tap into,” she said.
Making the event happen takes a lot of support from the community and some 700 volunteers.
“We’ve grown every year. The first year I think we had about 1,700 children and this year we’re pushing 2,100, and they’re all Forsyth County children,” Smith said. “We’ve added businesses that do toy drives, we have churches that collect gift cards. We have businesses, churches and neighborhoods, just individuals that help us and participate.”
Among those volunteers was Lisa Schiendler, with Forsyth County Women’s Club, who said she appreciated that the Holiday House gave parents an opportunity to pick gifts for their child rather than a stranger.
“This is an awesome thing for the community,” she said. “They come through and choose their own toy for their own child. Rather than us just deciding for them what we think they might like, [The Place puts] it together and the parents get to choose, and I think that’s awesome.”
Volunteer Tina McGinley, with Dyslexia Forsyth, said it was great to see the community come together to support those in need.
“It’s impressive,” she said. “It makes me happy to live in Forsyth County to see the support (and) the generosity of the people around.”