Ferriday, Natchez Toys for Tots organizers ready

Published 12:04 am Saturday, December 23, 2017

NATCHEZ — In the Miss-Lou, Santa Claus is not the only one making a list and checking it twice.

Naughty or nice, however, are not determining factors for the coordinators of two young Toys for Tots operations in Ferriday and Natchez.

In a storehouse on Mickey Gilley Avenue in Ferriday, Tracy Parker-Newman sorts through hundreds of toys as she packs a bag for each child on her list.

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Needy families in the parishes fill out an application and list the names, ages and genders of the children in the household.

For qualifying families in the seven parishes her branch serves, Parker-Newman fills a large bag with three to four toys per child.

Parker-Newman said her motivation to work each day leading up to Christmas Eve stems from a time when she, too, was on the list.

“I was a recipient,” she said. “I knew how good it made me feel, knowing that my children would have a Christmas even when we couldn’t afford it. I wanted to make people feel the way I felt.”

Though Parker-Newman has been a volunteer for Toys for Tots for 18 years, only the last three have been in Ferriday.

“I knew how good it would be for my little town,” she said. “I wanted to impact rural areas.”

It can be difficult to find funding in a smaller town, Parker-Newman said, but she said the children are just as deserving of a Christmas as any other.

Parker-Newman pairs with a director for each of her service areas, and the director distributes the toys for his or her town or parish.

Just two days before Christmas, Parker-Newman was still passing out box-loads of gifts to distributors.

Sherry Ford, a friend of Parker-Newman’s and a volunteer, said she spent several hours dividing up the toys into gender and age groups.

“I asked Tracy if she needed help,” Ford said. “And of course I wanted to come help, I love Tracy.”

In Natchez, Loraine Griffin has all her presents wrapped.

Bags full of toys fill dozens of large boxes, each with a tag denoting the recipient, filled the Joseph Frazier Elementary School gym Friday, where Griffin had set up her distribution center.

Griffin said this branch of Toys for Tots serves all of Adams County and that this year she had more than 700 children on her list.

This is Griffin’s third year helping to coordinate the Adams County branch, but she said she has known about Toys for Tots for more than 30 years, since she moved to Natchez from Chicago.

“We’ve been working every night,” Griffin said. “The community has been so generous.”

Griffin said between donations of funds or gifts and toys from the U.S. Marine Corps, she and approximately 12 volunteers were able to give each of the 700 children a Christmas.

Though Griffin has children and grandchildren of her own, Griffin said she enjoys spending the days leading up to Christmas packing up presents for families in the area.

“There are so many children that are going without,” she said. “This is my way of giving back. We just want all the children to have a good Christmas. Every child deserves that.”