RIVIERA BEACH — Typical of many similar efforts throughout South Florida this season, the U.S. Marine Corps and a local nonprofit helped hundreds of kids and their families ring in the holidays with food, fun activities and lots of toys, as the Valley of Love Ministries held its fourth annual Toys for Tots event.
Marie A. Jean-Pierre, VLM president, said that the Toys for Tots gift giveaway, Sunday, Dec. 21 at the organization’s 1901 Broadway Ave. facility in Riviera Beach, was a fun-filled day for everyone who attended, especially the children.
“Over 200 kids from all over Palm Beach County showed up,” she said. “The kids were very happy. We had activities, candy, playtime, dinner, and then they got the toys.”
The U.S. Marine Corps Reserve’s Toys for Tots program collects new, unwrapped toys during October, November and December each year, and distributes those toys as holiday gifts to less fortunate children in the community in which the campaign is conducted in cities across the country, as detailed at the organization’s website, www.toysfortots.org. The primary goal of the Toys for Tots program is to deliver a message of hope to the young children who receive these gifts from their local communities.
Working in conjunction with this philosophy, the mission of the Valley of Love Ministries is to meet the physical, mental and spiritual needs of the less fortunate in Palm Beach County, Haiti or wherever there is a need.
Jean-Pierre said that the Valley of Love Ministries also helps people and other organizations in the county throughout the year – donating more than 100 toys to a local school earlier this year, for example, before the Toys for Tots event.
During this year’s VLM toy distribution, children ages 1 through 14 received a variety of gifts which helped make the holidays more joyful for them, she said. “We gave them all kinds of toys from baby dolls and trucks to make-up for the older kids,” Jean-Pierre said. “There was also a holiday dinner.”
The Valley of Love Ministries also has weekly community outreach programs which include breakfast 8 – 9 a.m. every Tuesday, food distribution from the organization’s food bank 12 – 3 p.m. every Thursday, a prayer breakfast 8 – 9 a.m. every Saturday, and a community meal distribution 3 – 7 p.m. every Sunday.
Food donations, both perishable and non-perishable items, are a constant need for the food bank, Jean-Pierre said. Other supplies such as plastic eating utensils, paper plates and cups are expensive and in high demand, she added.
“Whenever somebody comes to us and says they’re hungry, we want to feed them,” Jean-Pierre said. “Because you know when somebody’s hungry, that’s not an easy thing.”
Clothing donations also are needed for the clothing closet, and monetary donations are need on an ongoing basis as well, Jean-Pierre said. People are in dire need, she added, citing a woman who called recently saying that she couldn’t afford to give her child any toys last year, and that her baby cried the whole year about not having any toys. Jean-Pierre said the woman and her child were able to attend the Toys for Tots event and receive gifts this year, which could make a positive difference in a child’s life.
The nonprofit agency also provides bus passes for those in need of job counseling and job placement, Jean-Pierre said.
“I want the community to know that there are many parents out there that are not working, that don’t have a job,” she said. “At the Valley of Love Ministries, our job is to help the less fortunate.”
For more information about VLM or to make a donation, call 561-502 -8757 or visit www.valleyofloveministries.org.