Leslie Thomas and his wife, Darlisa Thomas, held their first-ever JC Toys 4 Us toy drive distribution Wednesday afternoon.
The event took place Wednesday afternoon in the dining area of the couple’s restaurant, Thomas’ Taste of Chicago, located at 105 W. Seventh St.
Wednesday afternoon, parents and their young children were able to come in to the restaurant and pick out Christmas gifts — gifts some of them might not have otherwise been able to afford. The children were each allowed, with parental help, to pick a stocking stuffer from a wrapping-paper decorated box and one or two gifts from a table lined with a variety of donated items, from books to board games to handmade scarves to toys of all kinds.
The toy drive started, according to Darlisa Thomas, when she and her husband heard from a patron who was concerned about having enough money to make ends meet over the holidays. The woman, Darlisa Thomas said, was afraid she might not be able to afford to allow her children a good Christmas.
Darlisa and Leslie Thomas, knowing this woman’s story wasn’t unique in the Junction City community, decided it was necessary to do something for their neighbors.
Neither of them grew up in a world of great privilege, they said. Leslie and Darlisa Thomas both know, they said, what it’s like for a family to struggle over the holidays and not have enough.
However, they want others to be able to have a Christmas.
“Whatever we can do to give back, that’s what we’re going to do,” Leslie Thomas said.
They had the means to hold a toy drive, so they did.
For the past month and a half, the Thomases have been accumulating donations.
According to Darlisa Thomas, Wednesday afternoon she and her helpers were prepared to accommodate more than 200 families.
The toy drop locations are still open at both of Junction City’s Dollar General locations and at Family Dollar. Another event will take place from 4 until 7 p.m. next week, Dec. 18, where children and their parents can come in and pick a few small gifts for themselves.
If, at the end of the toy drive and distribution, Leslie Thomas said they have plans to make sure the donated toys and gifts still make it into the hands of those who need them most.
“Christmas is about — it’s about giving,” he said.