Annual toy drive spreads Christmas cheer; program expanded to include teens this year

Published 3:52 pm Wednesday, November 16, 2022


Year after year, many children in Middlesboro go without the Christmas they deserve. And to combat this, the Cooperative Christian Ministry hosts a toy drive to help approximately 100 disadvantaged children receive gifts on Christmas. And they plan to do that again this year.

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But this is not your average toy drive, says Eric Martin, executive director of Cooperative Christian Ministry.

“We do it a little different than most places,” Martin said.

Martin recalls that upon his start, the toy drive was a little different. The organizers would take the children’s wish list items, and pair them with donated items based on what they thought the child would like best.

“We wouldn’t always get what the kid liked,” Martin said. “And I thought, that doesn’t seem like the most dignified way to do this.

“We set up inside the fellowship hall of First Baptist Church and we set everything out… like you’re in a store, with tables in line with the fellowship hall, with the different age ranges of toys.

“We let the families come in and pick what toys they want to wrap and give to their kids.”

Martin says the response to the program has been phenomenal from families grateful they get to shop for their children for the holidays. This program helps children ages 0-12, and whose parents are a client of CCM.

A new program the CCM is starting this year is one that includes teenagers.

Martin said after speaking to a couple of his friends in the school system they mentioned that many of the younger kids get gifts and get to experience Christmas joy and love, but many of them have teenage brothers and sisters who don’t get that warm feeling on Christmas morning.

The CCM has worked with the school systems to identify 20 teenagers that might not otherwise have Christmas gifts this year. The organization looked for people to “adopt” these 20 teenagers, taking down their clothing sizes and interests.

There are several toy drop-off locations, such as: the Cooperative Christian Ministry, Blue Diamond, Crater City Pharmacy, Crater City Vendor Mall, Family Discount Drugs, Fountain Square Pharmacy, Gap Creek Coffee House in Cumberland Gap, Hearthside Bank in both Middlesboro and Harrogate, Jeff’s Pharmacy, Mountain Tarp, People’s Choice Pharmacy and Roses located in the Middlesboro Mall.

The annual CCM toy drive will run through Dec. 16.