Toy drive seeks gifts for local children

By Vicky O. Misa | | (405) 214-3962 | Twitter: @Vicky_NewsStar
The Shawnee News-Star
Carriers for Kids toy drive founder Jennifer Kirk, at right, sits for a photo with Mr. and Mrs. Claus.

Area resident Jennifer Kirk, a single mom, knows how hard Christmas can be. A little help can go a long way to make Christmas better for those who are struggling.

A local letter carrier for several years, Kirk noticed Dear Santa requests — sent through the mail by children — weren't making it to Santa's ears.

“No one was doing anything with them,” she said. “I couldn't afford to buy presents, but I started replying to the letters.”

A few years ago, a particular letter touched Kirk's heart.

In the words of a big-hearted little letter-writer — an autistic child from Seminole — good wishes for Santa's safety were the focus, as it is cold this time of year and air traffic could be dangerous for the jolly old elf and his reindeer.

Kirk knew she wanted a better way to make the holiday bright for children.

The Carriers for Kids toy drive was founded in 2018 by a few letter carriers with the help of their friends and family.

That first year, Kirk and her best friend set up 12 donation boxes, hoping to meet a goal of enough gifts to share with 50 children.

“My friend prayed about it, and said 100 kids needs to be our goal,” Kirk said.

Partnering with Community Renewal that year, Kirk's toy drive became a collaboration with Horace Mann Elementary School, where 65 first-graders wrote letters to Santa.

At the gift-giving event only a handful showed up, but Kirk said the effort in total served 115 children, which included 35 letters that were gathered from the carrier routes.

“They each got at least one toy,” she said. “If the child mentioned a brother or sister, we gave them a gift, too.”

Last year went well, serving 183 children, and this year Kirk is at it again, partnering once more with Community Renewal of Pottawatomie County — and this year adding partner Beyond Baked, of Tecumseh.

Donation sites with collection boxes and change jars are available for residents who want to help.

Wherever the boxes may sit collecting goodies for little ones, the end result has already proven to be a fast-growing endeavor for Kirk and her cohorts.

She said delivery has been fun for her, her daughter and her best friend.

“We've gone out dressed as elves and delivered gifts on Christmas Eve,” she said.

Kirk said the children on the carrier routes receive a personal visit from Santa's elves on Christmas Eve.

“This toy drive is near and dear to the hearts of all of our wonderful partners and volunteers,” she said. “To see the expression of pure belief and joy on these children's faces is absolutely priceless.”

Kirk said another goal is to provide a complete Christmas to a minimum of five families.

Collections are scheduled to continue until Thursday (Dec. 10).

Through Thursday, Dec. 10, area businesses have donation boxes set up for the local Carriers for Kids toy drive. They are:

• Community Renewal, 1000 N. Kickapoo, Shawnee

• Shawnee Mall, 4901 N. Kickapoo, Shawnee

• Dark Vapor, 2620 N. Harrison, Shawnee

• Dark Vapor, 210 E. Broadway, Seminole

• Forward Solutions, 1106 N. Kickapoo, Shawnee

• The Green Door Dispensary, 121 E. Main, Shawnee

• The Leafy Sol, 20 W. Main, Shawnee

• B&W Dispensary, 418 E. Main, Shawnee

• Local Leaf, 19680 Gordon Cooper Drive

• Shawnee Feed Center, 40006 Hardesty Rd., Shawnee

• Top Notch, 36002 Hardesty Rd., Shawnee

• Randy’s Tire and Alignment 312 N. Harrison, Shawnee

• Harrison Discount Pharmacy, 1442 N. Harrison, Shawnee

For more information, email