Greensboro native Edwana Taylor said her children’s Christmas will be a whole lot merrier this year, thanks to the generosity of a local AM radio station.
Times have been tough for Taylor, a single mother of two, and her family since she was laid off from her job with a landscaping company in September, but Taylor said things were looking up last week, thanks to her favorite gospel radio station, 1400/1340 The Light. The Winston-Salem-based station hosts an annual toy drive and distributes the donations to families in need across the Triad area.
“We basically have funds for the budget, like basic things,” said Taylor, one of dozens of beneficiaries of the 2013 event. “Money for toys was not in the budget, so I’m grateful for this help.”
The Light has been a staple in Taylor’s life since she was a girl; she listens to the station daily, and when she heard Anita “Boss Lady” Dean-Arnette promoting the drive on air, asking families in need to write in and share their stories, Taylor said she knew her prayers had been answered. She wrote to Dean and requested that her family, which includes her eight year-old daughter and 10 year-old son, be added as a recipients of the toy drive.
“I just wanted to make sure my children were happy and had toys on Christmas,” she said. “… It feels good to be a part of something greater than myself and to know that I am not alone.”
The Taylors were among the more than 66 families who benefitted from the event this year.
“This is a record year,” noted Dean-Arnette, who started the drive as a safety net for families who are in need of Christmas toys but miss the deadline or don’t meet the requirements to receive toys from the Salvation Army. “I’m finding more and more, there is a need in our community that people just aren’t aware of. There are so many people that just don’t have anything, for one reason or another.”
Recipients of the drive included single moms and grandparents rearing grandchildren, and families who had fallen on hard times because of illness, injuries or other unexpected catastrophes. Dean-Arnette even got some requests from inmates in correctional centers. One inmate asked Dean-Arnette to help his two year-old daughter and her mother, both of whom were suffering, he said, because of his mistakes.
“Her mother is struggling to keep the mortgage, lights, water, daycare, etc. paid. I have truly let them both down,” he wrote. “I heard you on the radio talking about helping needy families. I can’t think of anyone who needs your help more than my baby and her mother…”
The families flocked to the station headquarters on Providence Lane on Thursday, Dec. 19 to pick up the donations that had been amassed for them through monetary contributions, donation boxes and a toy drive the station hosted at Morning Star Baptist Church on Dec. 15. Dean-Arnette said it is hearing the personal stories of the people whose lives the drive touches that make the hard work it requires worthwhile.
“God has ordained me to do this in the community,” she said of the drive. “…I get so emotional when I talk about it because it’s not about me, it’s not about the radio station, it’s about God and doing something to help someone else.”
Janay Elliott of Greensboro said she was glad for the help she and her two daughters Jayla, 3 and Trinity, 18 months, received through the drive. Although she is employed, finding funds for extras like gifts at Christmas time is always a challenge, said Elliott, who works in retail. At three, her older daughter has heard a lot about Santa Claus and is fully expecting to find something under her tree this year, Elliott said.
“It kind of makes you feel bad to know that you’re not able to give them a lot,” she remarked.
Thanks to the toy drive, Elliott said she will be able to ensure that her daughter’s first real memories of Christmas are positive.
“It makes me feel very happy to know that people care other than just your family and friends,” she said. “It makes you feel a lot better to know that they’ll get something.”
City native Shirley Gaither volunteers as one of Dean-Arnette’s “elves” every year, helping to sort, pack and distribute the toys. Gaither, a mother of four, said she can relate to the anxiety many of the families that come to the station for help are feeling.
“When you have been in their shoes, you can have even more compassion for these women,” she said. “Every mother wants to see the joy of their children on Christmas morning.”
Sponsorships from Modern Toyota, Dero’s Decorating and Skate Haven helped the radio station meet
the ever-growing need in the community this year. Modern’s Dan Santarelli and Rebecca Lashmit stopped by the station Thursday morning, to witness the giveaways firsthand.
“Personally, there’s nothing sadder to me than to wake up on Christmas morning and not have anything under that tree,” commented Lashmit, a customer relations manager. “To be able to give a part of yourself and make somebody else’s life a little bit better, that’s what the Christmas spirit is all about.”
For more information about The Light, visit www.1340thelight.com or call (336) 759-0363.