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Timely toy donation an answer to prayer

Timely toy donation an answer to prayer

Timely toy donation an answer to prayer

1 December 2017

Samantha Akers (right) and her partner, Ricky, will be giving Christmas cheer in Townsville again this year.

By Naomi Singlehurst

Last Christmas providing a hamper to Townsville’s needy families was no problem, it was the alarming lack of toys that worried Captain Paula Hambleton the most.

Captain Hambleton, the Corps Officer of Townsville Riverway Salvation Army with her husband Andrew, says the “Christmas Cheer” list was extremely long last year and toy donations were markedly down.

“I believe we have the highest unemployment rate in the country at the moment and I believe also the highest crime rate at the moment in the country,” Captain Hambleton says. “At the moment if you drive down the main street or around the city of Townsville there are just empty buildings and businesses closed everywhere. It looks a bit ghost-townish in some ways.

“The demand for assistance at Christmas time certainly was high and the donations were looking very low.”

The Hambletons and their welfare team was concerned, wanting to brighten Christmas for those in greatest need.

“My husband and I have two children and we love to see the joy they experience at Christmas time. It was heartbreaking to think other kids would have to miss out,” Captain Hambleton says.

“We were very worried – genuinely worried. We hadn’t even remotely received the influx of toys that we would usually get. We knew we had 253 kids immediately registered that we had to provide for.” 

Praying earnestly, and with only days before the team was to start handing out “Christmas Cheer”, Captain Hambleton was between pastoral visits at a local shopping centre when she met local university student Samantha Akers. Samantha looked at Captain Hambleton’s Salvos shirt, introduced herself and said she collected toys from family and friends to help others at Christmas time. Would the Salvos like them?

Captain Hambleton gratefully accepted. 

However, when a text came from Samantha with a photo of all the toys (pictured right), Captain Hambleton says: “My jaw and my husband’s jaw nearly hit the ground – there were 320 toys for us to distribute!

“It was absolutely an answer to prayer,” Captain Hambleton says. “We were just desperate and while it’s easy to trust God when things are going well; that’s not always so easy when things are not going to plan.”

While Samantha’s gifts were amazing, Captain Hambleton says the care that Samantha and her partner showed to others when they came to help distribute the gifts (Samantha spent two days at the centre) was equally wonderful.

“They fitted right in with the team and they were so caring. That meant the world to those in need. Children were going to wake up and have something wonderful to open on Christmas Day.

“There were some really great needs. We had a family whose home was burned to the ground. There was also a young mum who showed up on the doorstep just before Christmas and she’d literally fled domestic violence and had nothing.

“To see the relief that at least they had something to give their kids for Christmas was incredibly moving and humbling.”

Samantha started collecting toys three years ago from family and friends after working as a teacher’s aide. (She is now studying to be a teacher).

She says: “More than three years ago, a little boy at the primary school I worked at said he didn’t have a Christmas tree or presents for Christmas and it just broke my heart. I wanted to help; so I decided to start collecting toys to donate to children to try and make a difference and brighten their Christmas day.
“That got me interested in starting a toy drive with family and friends and it has grown every year (through various organisations).”

The first year Samantha collected 182 gifts, then the second year 276, and last year almost 400.
“Last year at The Salvation Army was the first time I’d actually given gifts out and had the chance to meet and see the families they were going to,” she says. “It has inspired me to want to do more and collect more because the families only got to take one or two each of the gifts I’d collected for each child.”

Donate to this year's Christmas Appeal HERE.


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