Toy giveaway set
• When: The toy giveaway for needy families starts at 9 a.m. Saturday, Dec.18
• Where: St. Phillip’s Episcopal Church
302 E. Gen. Stewart Way
• Contact: To donate gently used or new toys call Irene Myers 570-3344
Mama Irene strives to be generous all year long.
Liberty County resident Irene Myers, or Mama Irene as she likes to be called, collects toys during the holiday season for families, but she also serves as a charity worker all year to those who are struggling to make it through each day.
“I feel it shouldn’t be just during Christmas, it should be year round,” Myers said. “We’ve always got someone in need. It should be year round, not just one season.”
Through simple advertising like word-of-mouth and black and white printed fliers, Myers asks for donations of furniture, household items and gently used clothing. On garbage night, she will search and inspect curbside items to make sure her neighbors aren’t throwing away anything valuable.
“People throw away good things,” she said. “You can’t do that around me.”
For years, fellow neighbors and residents dropped items off at her home. Myers stored the items until they could be picked up by a family in need.
Now, donations are turned over and stored at her church, St. Phillip’s Episcopal Church on Gen. Stewart Way.
For example, if a family has a broken stove and can’t afford a new one, they will call her, knowing she will find a way to get one for them, she said.
“Irene is lovely. In 18 years, she has been my right hand person for outreach,” said Kathie Murphy, the church’s outreach coordinator.
Murphy, who works with Myers to collect and distribute items from the church, said these are the people who won’t go for help to the government because pride gets in the way. They have to give up too much personal information going through the welfare system, both Murphy and Myers said.
“If somebody calls with a need, we get on the phone [to find out how we can get what they need],” Murphy said.
Giving is what we do
Although Myers doesn’t have much to call her own, she is OK with that.
She does have a house, but doesn’t own a car. She has a cell phone, but doesn’t have internet service.
During the first week of every month, she receives her disability check for health issues she won’t talk about. Because, she said, if people worry about her, then she will worry about herself, and Mama Irene just won’t have any of that.
“As long as I’m not taking from my son, and all my bills are paid, I’m going to help anyone I can,” Myers said.
Her 14-year-old son, Marquise, has helped her for years from their Garden Circle home. The Bradwell Institute freshman said he loves working with the community, especially around Christmas.
“It’s really a growing experience for me and I like the fact that we can do things for other people,” he said while pacing the living room of his mother’s house. “Just seeing the smiles on those kids and those parents faces — it just reaffirms my belief that there’s a little bit of good in everyone.”
Both Marquise and his mother realize some people may take advantage of their generosity, but it doesn’t stop them from collecting for those who truly need the charity.
Items may be picked up at any time by anyone, no questions asked, no paperwork to be filled out.
“I’m going to keep doing it no matter if they use me,” she said. “God has made me able to do these things.”
Although she spends the entire year collecting basic necessities, she takes extra care at Christmas to make sure children’s needs are met. She works with Clyde’s Market stores, where donation boxes have been set up to collect items.
So far, nothing has been collected and Christmas is only 15 days away.
But some area residents have given Myers their word that they will lend a helping hand this Christmas, especially since she has raised her goal for the toy drive due to the success of last year’s drive, which collected 1,000 toys for distribution.
“This year, I want to reach at least 2,000 [kids]. I just wish more people would come together because it’s for our community. It’s not like it’s outside our community,” Myers said. “I want this Christmas to be ultimate.”
Why she’s a giver
Myers started her quest to help neighborhood children nine years ago. As someone who grew up in New York foster homes, she said she knows what it is like to need regular, everyday items. Gifts were something extra that she didn’t really have.
“I didn’t want no child to be without, because I grew up without,” she said of her desire to bring joy to children during the holidays. “I just want people to reach in their heart this year and feel the feeling.”
St. Phillip’s Episcopal Church will be the distribution site on Dec. 18 for needy families to come out and select toys for their children. Volunteers will be available to wrap toys, free of charge, for those who pick up gifts.
Parents will be required to sign-in and choose two toys per child starting at 9 a.m. until whenever the toys run out.
“To some, that doesn’t sound like a lot,” Myers said. “But to kids who may have nothing, that’s a lot.”