How the Henrico Christmas Mother provides toys for families in need

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HENRICO COUNTY, Va. — On a chilly November evening, cold rain pounded against the large metal warehouse in eastern Henrico County that serves as the base of operation for the Henrico Christmas Mother program. Inside, volunteers were wrapping up another long day as the massive holiday program kicked into high gear for 2015. Small mountains of boxes filled with new toys lined the walls of the warehouse. Finding and buying the toys takes technology-supported organization, frugal volunteer shoppers and a passion for finding perfect gifts for lots of little girls and boys.

“The toy committee begins buying toys immediately after Christmas when the toys go on sale,” said Harriet Long, president of the Henrico Christmas Mother Council. “We check all year long for toys. We often go and select one toy from a store and then the store lets us order sometimes 25, 30 or 40 of those toys that are then shipped into us.”

Many of the 10 or so toy volunteers shop online to find the best buys for all age groups.

“I can remember looking online and seeing one particular thing that I wanted for my infants and could not afford it [within the Council’s set budget] so I remember watching and watching and watching [for the price to drop],” Long said.

She eventually was able to buy that $60 toy for $17. Long said that Mary Shaia, chair of the toy committee, keeps the toy operation part of the program organized and flowing smoothly by using a database and spreadsheets. That makes sense because hundreds of families in the county will come to the warehouse to select toys.

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