By Caleb Slinkard
The Commerce Journal
Approximately 500 children in the Commerce Independent School District will receive Christmas presents this year, thanks to the Commerce Kiwanis Club’s annual Lil’ Angels toy drive.
Lil’ Angels is now in its 26th year, and the Kiwanis Club has the toy drive and giveaway down to a science. Commerce ISD staff help the organization select families, who are then given applications. Once the application has been received and approved, each child is assigned a card with the child’s name, age, three present wishes and clothing size. Volunteers then sort through the toys they have collected and, if needed, go purchase the toys.
“Ninety-nine percent of all toys are bought here in Commerce,” Lil’ Angels Chair and Kiwanis Club President Beckey Thompson said.
The toys are then bagged, allowing the parents to come pick them up and then wrap them. Thompson said that the group works diligently to ensure that siblings receive gifts of equivalent value.
The club only has 13 members, four of which are new to the program, but Thompson hopes to expand Lil’ Angels in the future.
“We serve around 500 children a year, and we know there are at least 500 more that need us,” she said.
Members are sorting, shopping and packing presents five nights a week, and the program takes about two months, although Thompson said they raise money year-round.
“We do a lot of our shopping on Black Friday,” Thompson said. “We have special shirts that say ‘shopping for Lil’ Angels.”
She said that other shoppers are courteous and helpful.
Numerous organizations help support the event, including L-3 Mission Integration, the First United Methodist Church of Commerce, the Thalian Culture Club, the Republic of Texas Parrot Head Club and Wal-Mart. The Commerce Fire Department will be hosting fund-raisers for the Lil’ Angels program during the Commerce Christmas Parade on Dec. 5 and in the Brookshire’s parking lot on Dec. 7.
The department will begin serving hot dogs, chips and soda at approximately 5:30 p.m. on Dec. 5. All of the money raised will go to benefit the Commerce Lil’ Angels program that provides Christmas presents for deserving Commerce children.
This is the second year the fire department will be raising money for the program, according to firefighter Gabe Wittkopf.
“As an association, we always donated to the program,” he said. “But two years ago, Beckey Thompson encouraged us to do more. We want all children in Commerce to have a Christmas.”
The fundraiser on Dec. 7 in the Brookshire’s parking lot will last from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Individuals who want to donate can select a child from the angel tree in the Commerce Walmart or drop off unwrapped gifts by Dec. 9 to any of the following locations: Chase Bank, Cypress Bank, Guaranty Bond Bank, the Commerce Police Department, the Commerce Fire Department, and the Chamber of Commerce. Parents will pick up presents for their children on Dec. 16 and 17.