COVID-safe community leaders prepare to distribute holiday gifts to hundreds of families through Toys for Tots. Courtesy of Author

By Paul Taylor

For the 12th consecutive year, the Southwest Comm-Unity Annual Christmas Toys for Tots was another huge success. Held on Saturday, December 12, 2021 at Westminster Presbyterian Church, the Toys for Tots event was a bit different from previous years to practice proper COVID protocols. Parents and children received the toys from a volunteer at Westminster’s entrance upon presenting their toy confirmation slip. Although the procedure was different from previous years, the intent and goal were the same as the line stretched for hours and more than 750 families in Wards 6 and 7 received bags of toys with at least two to three items inside each bag. 

The generous supply of toys also enabled James Creek, Syphax, Greenleaf Gardens and Annex to hold mini toy giveaways for families who were unable to attend the drive. A special thanks to Westminster’s Co-Pastors Revs. Brian and Ruth Hamilton for hosting this year’s event again, and to the U.S. Marines, SWBID, Southwest Neighborhood Assembly Youth Activities Task Force, Thelma D. Jones Breast Cancer Fund, Department of Recreation, Department of Corrections (College and Career Readiness), and other dedicated volunteers, including Ayisha Lee, DC Area Toys for Tots Representative, and former long-time Southwest resident Lisa Matthews. Southwest teens especially thank the community churches, including Westminster Presbyterian, Christ United Methodist, Riverside Baptist, Second Union Baptist and St. Augustine’s Episcopal, for their generous donation of $25 gift cards to over 100 teens. Also, special thanks to the Friends of Southwest DC and the District Wharf for their generous donations which helped to purchase additional toys, baby pacifiers, bottles, onesies, blankets, socks, long johns, hats, scarves, and  gloves for area families with infants and toddlers and the families at the AYA Shelter who expressed their gratitude as well.

Toys for Tots is an annual program run by the United States Marine Corps Reserve which distributes toys to children whose parents cannot afford to buy them gifts for Christmas. The program was founded in 1947 by reservist Major Bill Hendricks. 

“With the pandemic upending our lives and creating a greater hardship for the needy and less fortunate, Southwest and the surrounding jurisdictions are so fortunate to have the Southwest Comm-Unity to champion this effort each year,” said Thelma D. Jones, founder of the Thelma D. Jones Breast Cancer Fund and chair of SWNA’s Youth Activities Task Force. “I am proud to represent two organizations for this worthwhile and important effort, as every child deserves to be happy, especially around this time of the year.”

Paul Taylor, a long-time former Southwest resident, is the founder and Executive Director of Southwest Comm-Unity. Each year, except for last year due to the pandemic, the Southwest Comm-Unity holds a well-attended annual community-wide gathering of individuals and families representing old and new Southwest residents.

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