Woodward, Okla. —
Tis the season to be giving, and that's exactly what the Woodward County Toy Giveaway has in mind for the holidays.
For over 30 years, the Toy Giveaway has provided hundreds of unprivileged children in Woodward County with gifts during each holiday season.
"The Toy Giveaway was created in 1981 by the New Horizon Methodist Church men's group to serve underprivileged children in Woodward. It started with a few pickup trucks delivering toys door-to-door and today we serve 600 plus children. We have close to a 1,000 this year," Giveaway Chairman Mike Habekott said.
EVERY CHILD DESERVES A CHRISTMAS
Habekott said the Toy Giveaway strives to help as many children as it can each year.
"Our belief and our motivation is that we do not want a child to go without Christmas," he said.
Not having a Christmas present can be emotionally detrimental to a child, Habekott said.
"When you're a child and you come back from Christmas break, the first thing you talk about is what you got for Christmas, and wouldn't it be tragic to have nothing to say? Think about what that does for their self image and self esteem," he said.
Habekott added that toys are an essential part of childhood.
"We believe food, clothing, shelter, are all essential for kids, but we also believe toys are essential to stimulate the imagination of children," he said. "As an adult maybe your car or TV or Bible or a family heirloom satisfies an emotional attachment, but for children that's what their toys provide. Something as simple as a toy could let them know someone cares and provide them with hope for years to come."
HOW THE GIVEAWAY OPERATES
Habekott said the Toy Giveaway is conducted in cooperation with the local Department of Human Services, which provides giveaway organizes with the number of children needing gifts, as well as their gender and ages. However, no names are ever shared; "it's very confidential," he said.
"Armed with that information we go shopping for toys that match those needs. Then we send out invitations to the parents of the children and invite them to come out to pick out toys for their children."
The Toy Giveaway doesn't stop at providing families with toys however, but rather seeks to provide an entire Christmas experience.
"When we give the toys away we try to create a shopping atmosphere. We create a store if you will. We assign different values for each of the toys. When parents show up with their invitations we present them with a card worth $100 of toy spending money per child. They come into the building, look over the items and choose toys appropriate for their child," Habekott said.
The giveaway chairman said there are several reasons why the event is organized this way.
"Who knows better than the parents what their children want?" he said, adding, "We believe that this method of distributing toys gives the parents an opportunity to share in the Christmas shopping spirit. It's uplifting and they carry that feeling back home with them."
HOW YOU CAN HELP
For those interested in helping provide a Christmas to all Woodward County children, there are several ways you can contribute to the Toy Giveaway.
"We take donations, both monetary as well as new or like new toys. They can bring them to Benbrook Agency on Main St. or Check Engine on Oklahoma Ave," Habekott said. "We also need volunteers to help on the set up date and as well as volunteers to be clerks on the day of the giveaway."
As someone who has been involved with the event for 2 decades himself, Habekott said he would encourage others to come out and lend a hand.
"After 20 years of working with the toy giveaway, I can tell you every event is a blessing. At every event you can witness God's grace, and it's been just as much a pleasure for me volunteering as it is for the children to receive the gifts," he said. "Anyone who'd like to have an enriching experience and feel the holy spirit should come out to volunteer."
For more information about how you can contribute to the Toy Giveaway, including how to become a volunteer, contact Mike Habekott at 256-1957.