More than 30 needy children received toys in 1989 when then-Walker County, Ga., Sheriff Al Millard founded the Stocking Full of Love toy giveaway.
This holiday season about 2,000 kids are expected to benefit on Dec. 15 when the doors open at Oakwood Baptist Church in Chickamauga. Kids and their parents can pick out unwrapped new toys bought with about $50,000 in donations.
"It really looks like a Toys R Us when we open up the doors to the [church] gymnasium," said Sheriff Steve Wilson, who took over the program when he took office in 1996, the year Millard died.
The charity gets toys at slightly above wholesale cost from retailers in Walker and Catoosa counties, including Big Lots, Kmart, Fred's, Walmart and The Real Deal.
"We prefer monetary donations, because we can buy the toys at much-reduced cost," Wilson said.
Longtime radio personality Tommy Jett has supported Stocking Full of Love since his friend Millard founded it. He helps line up performers for a sock hop that's one of the event's fundraisers.
"We try to see that every kid in Walker County has some presents under the tree when they come down on Christmas morning," Jett said. "It's a great program."
There's still time to pick up an application to register a child in the toy giveaway program. Applications need to be postmarked by Nov. 30.
Applications are available at the Walker County Sheriff's Office at 105 S. Duke St. in LaFayette; at the Walker County Division of Family and Children Services at 10056 N. Highway 27 in Rock Spring; and at the Rossville Police Department, 500 McFarland Ave. in Rossville.
Tim Omarzu covers education for the Times Free Press. Omarzu is a longtime journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor at daily and weekly newspapers in Michigan, Nevada and California.