Then a flier showed up at her door this week.
Lithonia Mayor Deborah Jackson was hosting a Toys for Tots giveaway for city residents with Project LEAD on Dec. 19.
Prather and daughters Ariana, 15, and Jovanni, 13; son Daniel, 10; and nephews Mylik, 9, and Mykhi, 5, showed up for the party. There was hot chocolate, cookies, cupcakes, candy, a Christmas tree and Santa Dee. Each child got an age-appropriate gift. Their smiles were infectious.
“This is a huge help,” said Prather, who has been surviving on odd jobs since losing her job three years ago. “This was a blessing. They got something. We will now be able to see the Christmas spirit.”
Prather said that her sister Danielle Thomas and her sons moved in with them in June.
“It’s been extremely tough, but we are making it,” she said.
The Prather family was among dozens of families who got presents at the event.
Jackson said they got 100 items from Toys for Tots. She also bought some more toys so that more of the city’s children could be served.
Prather appreciated the effort.
“This mayor is always doing something good for the community,” she said.
Across South DeKalb, organizations and individuals have been chipping in to spread holiday cheer to struggling families.
Wadsworth’s Shoe Box Project
On Dec. 10, employees of the Golden Living senior center on Columbia and Glenwood in Decatur picked up 220 decorated shoe boxes loaded with toiletries, gloves, scarves and other goodies for its elderly residents from Wadsworth Magnet School.
The boxes were beautifully decorated by the elementary school students, who also donated the items and packed the boxes.
The gifts touched the heart of Treon Adams, the center’s activity manager.
“Tears were in my eyes,” Adams said. “I was overwhelmed, overjoyed. It was just amazing.”
Adams said the kids also personalized the boxes with the names of each resident.
“We are going to pass them out at our Christmas party on Dec. 24,” she said. “They are going to love it.”
Adams said many of the residents, who are 50 to 102 years old, have no family and the gift boxes will mean the world to them.
Dr. Cornellia Crum, Wadsworth’s principal, said the students selected the School Box Project in September and worked on it in their clubs. She said the fourth-graders picked the nursing home and everyone, including teachers and parents, chipped in to make the project successful.
“The outpouring of love and compassion touched my heart,” said Crum, who has been principal at the high achievers magnet school since 2008. “Every single day, they brought in combs, brushes, toothpaste, soaps, shampoos, gloves, scarves. They worked before school, after school and in art classes and in their clubs. The whole community got involved.”
Fourth-grader Ny’Asia Bell said their clubs are busy year-round.
“Many of our clubs are community service organizations so we do projects all year to give back to the community,” Ny’Asia said.
Activists rally benefactors
This week, attorney Mereda Davis Johnson heard of a single mother who was jailed, leaving her seven children without gifts for the holidays.
Davis Johnson called up friends and sent a list asking for help to fill the children’s wish lists. No one said no, and within a few hours she had commitments for all the children.
“Everyone was really, really happy to help,” she said. “There are so many kind and generous people in DeKalb.”
On Dec. 20 and 21, about 5,000 children received bikes and toys at MARTA employees’ annual Holiday Shop.
The disadvantaged families selected by United Way were invited to “shop” for gifts donated by the transit authority’s workers.
Elected officials who host toy drives for disadvantaged families said people stepped up to the plate.
District 3 Commissioner Larry Johnson said there was an outpouring of toys for the 500 children he needed toys for. On Dec. 15, benefactors poured into the Gallery at South DeKalb to bring gifts to his annual Tree of Love campaign.
“We did good,” Johnson said. “It worked out. The community came together. In the midst of a tough economy, people still felt the need to give. Those kids are going to be happy for Christmas.”
District 7 Commissioner Stan Watson raised 300 toys for CASA, the Court Appointed Special Advocates program that serves kids going through the Juvenile Court system.
A new, unwrapped toy was part of the admission to Watson’s annual “Touch of Red & White” event that took place at the Porter Sanford Performing Arts Center on Dec. 15. It included dinner and a performance by trumpeter extraordinaire Joey Sommerville and some musician friends.
On Dec. 15, Healing Stream Ministries handed out 72 duffel bags filled with a blanket and personal care items to homeless people throughout the county. On Dec. 22, the ministry will give gifts to 150 disadvantaged children ages 2 to 16.
Elder Gerard Scroggins, pastor of the Lithonia church, said they went looking for homeless people on Glenwood Road, near the interstate on Wesley Chapel Road, around the I-75/I-85 interchange to I-20, and near University Avenue in Atlanta.
“It’s a small congregation, but they do big work,” he said.
“We learn about God’s love inside the walls of the church, and we show his love outside of the walls.”