Thanksgiving may be the next holiday on the calendar, but the residents of Southern Heritage Assisted Living in East Ridge got a taste of the Christmas spirit when Sandra Radant, also known as the "Toy Lady," stopped by with a gift for each of them.
Housing 45 people, all available residents were treated to a toy, with the rest to be used for game nights and other activities at the senior living facility.
Describing the residents' reactions, Radant said they were "just tickled to get something. And I'm sure they'll set that [toy] on their bed, or maybe on their dresser, or maybe they'll carry it with them."
The donation was part of an outreach effort of the Ladies of Charity Thrift Store. The toys had been donated to the store by members of the community. Each was sanitized and packed into plastic bags before being hand-delivered room to room by Radant and three other volunteers.
Donations like these are just one way she and the Ladies of Charity benefit the Greater Chattanooga community. They also give toys to the police department, which then gives them to children involved in car accidents, deaths in a home and other traumatic events. In the last two months, more than 50 toys have been given to children in these situations, Radant said.
Additionally, all money raised by the Ladies of Charity helps fund medications, funeral expenses and more for local residents — around $12,000 monthly, she said
Eight years ago, Radant walked into the organization's Rossville Boulevard thrift store as a shopper. She later asked if they needed volunteers, and since then has remained one of the Ladies of Charity's main volunteers. Radant is in charge of the toys, earning her the moniker "Toy Lady."
In upholding that name, she planned another toy donation for residents at Southern Oaks Assisted Living on Lee Highway, tentatively scheduled around the beginning of November.
Radant said both Southern Heritage and Southern Oaks are small compared to other assisted living homes, sometimes making their needs greater.
"The smaller homes sometimes don't get as many donations coming to them," she explained. "That's why we're kind of picking the smaller places."
She encourages everyone to "come visit the thrift store, see what's available, buy an amazing buy, and in turn [help] someone in the community."