A Chattanooga nonprofit group is asking the community to come out and donate toys and coats for the city's needy children on Friday.
"Our shelves are bare. We are struggling to figure out how we're going to finish out this year," said Sgt. David Young, vice president of operations for the Forgotten Child Fund.
The nonprofit is run by first responders from Hamilton County emergency services, the Chattanooga police and fire departments, their families and a large group of volunteers. They have raised thousands of dollars and helped countless children by providing toys since 1961, after Officer Johnny Wright and his partner were dispatched to a domestic disorder call on Christmas Day. When they arrived, there were two children at the residence. Officer Wright asked what Santa had brought them. One child held up an apple, the other an orange. Wright then went to a local store and bought them gifts and vowed to give all Chattanooga's children a proper Christmas.
"It went from those two kids to helping around 10,000 kids last year," Young said.
Last year, COVID-19 caused restrictions on distributing toys. This year, the fund is facing another crisis: a shortage of toys.
"We are still on the COVID protocol, but what hurt us this year was the container crisis," Young said. "There are no truck drivers, and that has hurt us big time this year."
Young and the dozens of volunteers and first responders are hoping that the last toy drive of the year will help them make it through to Christmas and deliver on Wright's promise.
"Chattanooga's first responders do care about their community, they do care about the children in their community, that we pray that we can bring joy and happiness to families on Christmas," Young said. "[Especially] those who are struggling, at least they have something, that they don't have 'I have an orange, and I have an apple' [situation]."
However, it's not all about toys. Parents can sign their children up to receive a coat as well.
"We are also the stewards for Coats for Kids. We have a coat room here. Last year we [gave out] close to 1,300 coats," Young said. "This year, we've already surpassed over 1,600."
Forgotten Child also helps organize the Santa Train, which takes off from Chattanooga State Community College on Christmas Eve. The effort seeks to deliver a large amount of toys to the top 10 neediest families in Chattanooga. But without donations, it's difficult to make it happen, Young said.
The Hamilton County 911 Emergency Communications District sent out a press statement on Wednesday that it will make a donation to the Fund.
"On Friday, December 17, 2021, Hamilton County 911 Emergency Communications District will be donating a check of $6,000 to the Forgotten Child Fund during their last big Toy and Money Drive of the year."
The Forgotten Child Fund will be accepting toy, coat and monetary donations from 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Friday at the following Walmart locations:
- 5764 TN-153, Hixson.
- 501 Signal Mountain Road, Chattanooga.
- 2020 Gunbarrel Road, Chattanooga.
- 5588 Little Debbie Parkway, Collegedale.
- 3040 Battlefield Parkway, Fort Oglethorpe, Ga.
They are also accepting online monetary donations online at forgottenchildfund.org and on Cashapp at $forgottenchildfund.
Contact La Shawn Pagán at email@example.com or 423-757-6476. Follow her on Twitter @LaShawnPagan.