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Saint Francis Toy Drive returns for second year
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As many look to kick off their holiday gift shopping following Thanksgiving this week, Saint Francis Ministries in Great Bend hopes people will remember area foster kids in that holiday gift shopping.

After a successful campaign in 2020, the ministry’s local Toy Drive for Foster Children has returned for a second year.

As with last year’s drive, Saint Francis is looking for toys and gifts for children of all ages, from birth through 18 years old, in all four counties covered by Saint Francis Ministries’ Great Bend office - Barton, Rice Stafford and Pawnee counties.

In particular, however, said Saint Francis After Care Worker Sandy McMullen, the drive’s co-head, they are looking for gifts for teenagers, a group she said is often underrepresented in holiday toy and gift drives for children. Because of the overwhelming success of last year’s drive, they still have many gifts for younger age groups, but are still looking for gifts for older age groups.

Types of gifts she suggested for this age group are things like gift cards, journaling supplies, and also suggested lava lamps and other age-appropriate gifts teenagers might like.

In addition to gifts for youth, she said donations of wrapping supplies and gift bags would also be useful, as they are currently short on gift-wrapping supplies.

They have already begun accepting donations for the drive, and will be accepting them through Sunday, Dec. 12. Unlike last year, Saint Francis’ local office at 1508 Main will be open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday for drop-off. However, those not able to come into the office can still call to have items picked up from their locations.

The ministry, whose area headquarters is in Great Bend, began the drive last year in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, when St. Francis was looking for a way to ensure children in the foster system still had a reason to celebrate In lieu of their traditional Christmas party for foster kids.

McMullen expressed deep gratitude to the community for its overwhelming support of the drive.

“We were very, very blessed last year with toys, and the community coming together, and have been very blessed this year with different companies and organizations reaching out to us.”

McMullen said this drive is important because many foster kids are often not able to experience Christmas in ways that other children do, something even more crucial in this challenging time. The ministry, she said, currently somewhere around 150 kids in its care within its four-county service area.

“We want them to have the joy of Christmas as much as everybody else,” McMullen said. “They definitely have seen a lot of stuff, so whatever we can do to make their lives better is definitely a blessing.”

McMullen said businesses that want to participate can also help by displaying flyers for the drive in their business windows.

For more information, those interested in participating can contact McMullen at 620-617-2640 or Mindy Evans at 620-617-0499. They can also contact the local Saint Francis office by calling 620-793-7454.