For the second year, a local nonprofit organization is working to assure an annual Christmas toy giveaway in East St. Louis goes on as planned by the late Rev. Dorris Davis.
When Davis died, Rachel Jackson-Bramwell of Project Compassion NFP in Belleville took over the toy drive and collected 1,260 toys to wrap and give to needy children.
Dorris Davis died in August 2012. For 25 years he operated the Dorris Davis Helping Hand Shelter and organized an annual Christmas dinner and toy giveaway in East St. Louis.
"We are where expected for the younger kids," Jackson-Bramwell said of the toy drive. "But, we still need toys and gifts for kids ages 12 through 15. Twelve to 15 is really struggling right now."
Jackson-Bramwell suggested scented lotion and soap gift sets are popular among the young teen girls. Volunteers are wrapping the donated gifts Monday through Saturday. For a time slot to volunteer to wrap, call Project Compassion NFP. Wrapping times are from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday.
The group would like to double the amount of gifts they collected last year so they could gift each child at least two, maybe three, items.
"That would be great, if we could double it," she said. "I'm a strong believer in God kind of knows what you need. I figure when he's done with the drive, we're done. We're probably close to 1,000 toys, but we need to make sure the older kids aren't left out."
The Dorris Davis Helping Hand organization is putting together and cooking the Christmas dinner where the toys will be distributed on Christmas Day.
"It's really one community, one cause," Jackson-Bramwell said. "We work together. The game plan is the same as it was when Dorris Davis organized it and I'm really honored to be able to honor his legacy and carry on with what he wanted to do every year. I'm just honored to be on the team."
Project Compassion was started eight years ago by Jackson-Bramwell. She and a group of volunteers at first just made and distributed sack lunches and hygiene supplies to the homeless. During the colder months the group collects donations of knit hats, scarves, gloves, socks and blankets to hand out to the homeless in St. Clair County and St. Louis. The group also accepts donations of instant soup noodle cups, hygiene supplies, deodorant, soap, toothpaste and toothbrushes.
The organization also is seeking new or very gently used donations of boys' clothing.
"Right now we have a drought for clothing for boys ages 8 to 13, so, if anyone could donate gently used clothing, we would really appreciate that."
She never imagined her vision to feed and help the homeless would grow in the eight years since she began.
"It's been a humbling experience. We have some pretty amazing programs going on here in the community," she said. "You look at how one act of kindness can help so many people. We are a die-hard community-based agency, and we are able to keep the faith and do the right thing for people in need. I never imagined making sandwiches would turn into helping teenage girls and helping children in need. I'm honored and very humbled by being able to be part of this plan."
The group also works with teenage girls in St. Clair County through a program called Empower Me and operates the Compassionate Resource Center in Belleville. The center at 7707 W. Main St. works to help young mothers learn to help themselves by teaching them life and job skills.
More information about Project Compassion, the Compassionate Resource Center and the organization's various outreach programs can be found at www.projectcompassionnfp.org or by emailing Jackson-Bramwell at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 618-397-1790.
Cash donations may be made to the organization at Project Compassion, NFP, P.O. Box 1002, O'Fallon, Ill., 62269. Jackson-Bramwell said that 100 percent of donations go to funding programs and services offered by Project Compassion.
Donated toys for the Dorris Davis Helping Hand toy drive can be dropped off at the Project Compassion NFP office at 6609 West Main St. in Belleville. In addition, SwaggHER Fitness will hold a toy drive from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday at 15 N. 47th St. in Belleville.