United for Biloxi organizes holiday toy drive

Kate Bigam

George Garrison may live in Ohio, but he considers the residents of Biloxi, Miss., his neighbors.

“I want to bring some joy into the lives of these young people, to help restore their hope and let them know that despite their current situation, they are not forgotten,” Garrison said. “There are people all across the nation who consider them as neighbors.”

Garrison and the members of Kent State United for Biloxi, the campus group he formed to aid hurricane victims in Mississippi, have organized a holiday toy drive to provide 300 children, aged 3 to 18 years old, with holiday gifts.

Because of the volume of recipients, the group chose not to collect donations but to instead seek out donors who will sponsor individual children, Garrison said.

Donors interested in sponsoring a Biloxi child during the holidays should contact Garrison, who will provide a list of children’s names and ages to choose from. Donors should purchase a new gift that is both age- and gender-appropriate for the child or children chosen and mail it to the contact person provided.

“We’re not talking about expensive gifts,” Garrison said. “As a benchmark, about 20 bucks for each child.”

Gifts should be unwrapped and in their original package, although wrapping paper may be shipped with the gift. Ideally, Garrison said, all gifts should arrive in Biloxi by Dec. 20, in time for Christmas.

Garrison, who visited the Biloxi region in March with more than 400 volunteers from the Kent State community, said he was inspired to help when he saw Kenneth Haynes, minister of the Main Street Mississippi Baptist Church, speak on CNN.

“The community was devastated, and it was taking the government too long to get to his community,” Garrison said. “He was appealing to the nation for help.”

KSUB collaborated with three organizations in the hurricane-affected areas of East Biloxi, including Haynes’ church, to form the list of children who will receive gifts from the toy drive. The Claudia Jones Computer and Learning Center and the Church of Vietnamese Martyrs also contributed names of children in need.

The holiday toy drive ends Dec. 15, but anyone wishing to contribute a general monetary donation can mail checks made out to “Kent State United for the Gulf Coast” to Gary M. Padak, Dean, Undergraduate Studies, Kent State University, P.O. Box 5190, Kent, OH 44242.

Monetary donors should include their name and mailing address to receive a receipt.

Additionally, Kent State United for Biloxi has two trips to the hurricane-affected region planned for 2007 – one in January and another during spring break in March. Anyone interested in participating in the group’s aid efforts should visit the Web site at http://explore.kent.edu/ksunited.

Contact enterprise reporter Kate Bigam at [email protected].