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Petal Childrens Task Force in need of toys for Christmas

PCTF volunteers Pat McClure and Stephanie West sort through some of the toys that have been donated. The task force needs toys for at least 237 children.

The Rev. Andy Stoddard, pastor of Asbury United Methodist Church presents Petal Children’s Task force executive director Demaris Lee with a check for $3,000. With Lee were task force board members Deborah Reynolds and Bill McDonald.

As of Monday, the Petal Children’s Task Force had 237 children on its Christmas wish list. And it was only the third day of December.

Tough economic times have sent parents scrambling for help. A young woman with three children came in reluctantly, having just lost her job.

“She was so excited that she had a job and was going to be able to buy Christmas for her children this year,” said Joann Pardin, PCTF coordinator. “And then she lost her job and had no where else to turn if her children were going to have Christmas.”

But as of right now there’s no way the task force can meet the needs of those on its wish list.

“We’re short of toys,” said Executive Director Demaris Lee, “especially for older kids. But we need toys for children of all ages.”

The task force is gladly accepting toys that anyone would like to donate, but in lieu of toys, will accept money and go shopping for the toys themselves. 

According to Pardin, the task force had about 200-210 children on their wish list last year, so the need is definitely up this year.

“But we’re going to keep on going,” she said. “God gives us the strength to serve and that’s what we’re going to do,” said Lee.

PCTF will also be giving out food boxes. According to Lee, they won’t be as big as the Thanksgiving boxes, with turkeys and everything, but “we’ll give what we’ve got.”

The organization was recently accepted into the Mississippi Food Network and once training and orientation are complete will be able to get food items through the network. Hopefully that will happen with the start of the new year.

According to volunteer Stephanie West, the PCTF was the recent proud recipient of proably 200 or more uniforms donated by the Petal Shoe Shop. “They decided to quit carrying uniforms at their business and gave them to us,” West said. The donation consisted of shirts, pants, vests, jumpers and skirts.

Also on Monday, the Rev. Andy Stoddard, pastor at Asbury United Methodist Church, presented task force board members with a check for $3,000 to put toward a walk-in cooler they have acquired, so they can handle perishable food items.

“We had the ability to be able to help,” said Stoddard. “This is a special place and we’ve always believed we could affect change in the community.

The building the task force occupies is owned by Asbury UMC and once served as the church’s Lighthouse Mission. But with the task force already in place, the church felt like the two were duplicating efforts and closed the mission and turned to supporting the efforts of the task force.

“This time we’re walking along beside and helping,” Stoddard said. He challenged other churches in the community to partner with the task force. “Each one wants to do something, so why don’t we all work together as partners in a joint ecumenical effort.”

“This is not a Demaris or an Andy or a Bill thing,” said Lee. “It’s God’s work and we’re all working together to build the kingdom.”

“Imagine what could be done if no one got the credit,” Stoddard said, as he paraphrased Harry Truman’s quote for  task force board members in attendance.

 In addition to the immediate needs of toys and food, the task force also needs more volunteers. “If we had more volunteers we could expand the hours we are open,” said Lee.

“It’s going to take opening our eyes and working together.”