WINSTON COUNTY - Children across Winston County are in need of toys this holiday season, whether or not a COVID-19 pandemic is ongoing, so the Winston County Fraternal Order of Police Free State Lodge 51 is determined to make that a reality.
The process of obtaining applications and collecting donations for The Winston County FOP Toys for Kids Drive is well underway, and monetary donations are needed more than ever before due to the shortage of funds, stressed Bryan Kirkpatrick, president of FOP Lodge 51. Funds have been depleted after previous giveaways.
“We were not going to have it due to a lack of funds. We have not been able to get out and hold our customary fundraisers like we usually do throughout the year because of the pandemic. But we have never failed in providing toys for children,” Kirkpatrick pointed out.
The name of the FOP Lodge 51 drive was Toys for Tots, but the name was changed this year to prevent possible copyright infringement with the annual toy drive conducted by the U.S. Marine Corps.
“We do not want to let the children down,” Kirkpatrick pointed out.
Donations are urgently needed due to the low amount of available funding.
This year’s application deadline means that FOP Lodge 51 members will have only two weeks to purchase the toys, according to Kirkpatrick.
“We are not going to be able to hand out as many toys as we normally do,” he also stressed. “The pickings are going to be slim this year, but we are going to do as well for them as we can. At least they can have a good Christmas.”
This year, the public is being urged to bring monetary donations to town halls across Winston County or to the Winston County Sheriff’s Office instead of bringing new toys, Kirkpatrick also emphasized.
“The more donations we get, the better a Christmas they can have,” added Kirkpatrick.
Applications for families in need this holiday season will be available at town halls across the county and at the sheriff’s office. Locations where applications can be picked up are as follows:
Addison Town Hall, located on Highway 278;
Arley Town Hall, located on County Road 41;
Double Springs Town Hall, located at 21 Main Street behind BankFirst (formerly Traders & Farmers Bank);
Lynn Town Hall, located in the former First National Bank building off of Main Street;
Winston County Sheriff’s Office, located inside the Winston County Courthouse.
Parents or legal guardians only will need to provide the child or children’s name, age and gender, as well as their address and contact information.
The application also asks for the name of the parent or guardian. Kirkpatrick stressed that ONLY parents or guardians should fill out the forms. In the past, grandparents and parents would fill out multiple applications for the same child, he said.
Children must reside in Winston County to be eligible, according to FOP members.
The deadline for applications to be submitted back to a town hall or the sheriff’s office is Monday, Nov. 30, at 4:30 p.m.
However, there is not a deadline for monetary donations, according to FOP members.
“That will go into the account, and it can go for Toys for Kids next year,” Kirkpatrick said. “We welcome any donations. We are going to continue the program as long as we are physically able to do it.”
The toy giveaway will be on Saturday, Dec. 19, from 8 a.m. until noon at the Double Springs Municipal Building.
Organizers stress that a new format is being planned for this year’s giveaway to prevent parents or guardians from getting out and coming into the municipal building during the pandemic. Instead, a system is being planned where vehicles can enter the parking lot from Highway 195 in a single line for a drive-through format.
Families arriving to pick up toys, even while remaining in their vehicles, will need to wear a mask or facial covering. Facial coverings will also be worn by FOP members and volunteers not only during the preparation nights, but on the day of the giveaway.
More volunteers are needed not just from the FOP, but from the general public to relay messages back inside and have the toys brought out to the vehicles so the families do not have to exit their vehicles.
It is stressed that toys will be provided this year only for ages 12 and younger, according to Kirkpatrick.
“We need to stress that everybody needs to be there to pick up,” Kirkpatrick said.
Volunteers will also be needed to assist FOP members in preparing the toys on Thursday, Dec. 17, and Friday, Dec. 18, each night at 5 p.m. at the municipal building.
See complete story in the Northwest Alabamian.