Food and toy drive brings Christmas to families in need

By Josh Bootsma

LANSING, Ill. (December 19, 2020) – Amid a year of shortage and loss, hundreds of children will have presents this Christmas thanks to a food and toy drive achieved by the collaboration of Lansing organizations, churches, businesses, and individuals.

Charitable organization We Are Lansing organized a two-day drive-thru food and toy drive in the parking lot of First United Methodist Church on Friday, December 18, and Saturday, December 19. Friday’s smaller event started around 6:00 p.m. and was specifically for families in Lansing schools, though some others were served as well. Saturday’s large event started around 10:00 a.m. and drew a line of cars that wrapped around the block.

Dozens of volunteers served during Saturday’s event, and even more people were involved in the planning, donation, and support that made the event possible.

Friday, December 18

Food and Toy Drive
A small group of volunteers is led in prayer by First United Methodist Church Pastor Dave Price (third from left) before the Friday evening food drive begins. (Photo: Josh Bootsma)
Food and Toy Drive
Thrivent Financial Associate Doug Horne delivers bags of food to a participant in Friday’s drive-thru event. Horne said Thrivent helped contribute to the food and toy drive with some money leftover from the Thanksgiving event it sponsored for We Are Lansing. (Photo: Josh Bootsma)
Food and Toy Drive
Tameka Evans was one of the first to receive toys and food on Friday. She works at TF North High School and received toys to pass on to a family that she knows. The family has four children. (Photo: Josh Bootsma)
Food and Toy Drive
Darrell Murray (left) and his mom Elayne Murray pause to take a photo on Friday night. Darrell was a victim of gun violence when he was younger and as a result started Celebration of Life, a ministry focused on promoting peace. He said his organization, which is located in Dolton, has been serving the community for 16 years, and usually does its own toy drives during the holiday season. COVID made that difficult this year, so he and Elayne decided to partner with We Are Lansing to donate and volunteer. (Photo: Josh Bootsma)
Food and Toy Drive
A crew of volunteers works in the basement of First United Methodist Church on Friday to sort and prepare toys for Saturday’s event. Some local businesses like Mancino’s and Waldo Cooney’s offered their customers discounts in exchange for a toy donation. (Photo: Josh Bootsma)
Food and Toy Drive
Pastor Dave Price said there was about 8,000 pounds of food to give away. We Are Lansing founder Cam Sanchez said the food came from Convoy of Hope and other community sources. (Photo: Josh Bootsma)
Food and Toy Drive
Volunteers joined the nativity scene in the First United Methodist lawn during a break in the action on Friday. (Photo: Josh Bootsma)

Saturday, December 19

Food and Toy Drive
At 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, the line of cars waiting to receive toys and food wrapped all the way around the block, from Burnham Ave. to Ann St. to Greenbay Ave. to Schultz Dr. Volunteers gave drivers information sheets to fill out so other volunteers would know how much food and how many toy items to place in each car. (Photo: Josh Bootsma)
Jonathan Vitale
Lansing Assembly pastor Jonathan Vitale directs traffic on Greenbay Ave. “Literally everybody in our congregation donated toys. Some people donated money, ” Vitale said. “The more that we do, especially for a church our size, partnering with other churches is super important because we can’t do a lot on our own because of the size of our congregation.” He estimated 40 people attended his church in person before the pandemic. (Photo: Josh Bootsma)
Food and Toy Drive
As cars came through the line, volunteers put bags of food in the car and referenced each car’s information sheet to determine which toys to place in the car as well. (Photo: Josh Bootsma)
Food and Toy Drive
Toys were sorted by age group and gender. There was even a newborn category. (Photo: Josh Bootsma)
A volunteer sorts through toys designated for 11-14-year-olds. (Photo: Josh Bootsma)
From left to right: Korey, Kevin, Colleen, and Cody Ziemkowski. Years ago, the family started Helmets for Cody, an annual toy donation that gives toys to local hospitals and families. This year, the family was only able to ship toys directly to hospitals via Amazon. Colleen said the family shipped $10,000 worth of toys this year. All the other toys which were donated to Helmets for Cody over the last year were brought to Friday and Saturday’s toy drives. (Photo: Josh Bootsma)
Cam Ssanchez Cody Ziemkowski
We Are Lansing founder and event organizer Cam Sanchez (left) joins Cody Ziemkowski for a photo. About six years ago, Cody fell off his bike and sustained serious head injuries. “Since then we’ve been trying to spread awareness of wearing helmets … and we started Helmets for Cody to get people to wear helmets and from there it went to donating toys to the hospitals and doing stuff for the hospitals for families that are in need and can’t afford to do stuff because their child is in the hospital over Christmastime,” Ziemkowski said. (Photo: Josh Bootsma)
Maria Cabrera
The self-named “Puerto Rican Elf” Maria Cabrera directs traffics near Burnham Ave. Cabrera is a Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts leader, and partnered with fellow scout leader Scott Bort in Tinley Park to donate over a thousand Barbies to Helmets for Cody, which were given away during Saturday’s event. (Photo: Josh Bootsma)
Maria Cabrera said all the Barbies she helped bring to the toy drive were worth roughly $11,000. (Photo: Josh Bootsma)
Food and Toy Drive
Volunteers from Lighthouse Community Church give a “thumbs up” indicating their car has been served and they’re ready for the next car. (Photo: Josh Bootsma)
Laura Wells
Laura Wells is from Lighthouse Community Church in Lansing. When asked why she wanted to volunteer at the event, she said, “Just to help everybody. Everybody’s struggling and going through something. Just to help, and do what God wants us to do, help each other, no matter what color you are. …We’re supposed to help everybody.” (Photo: Josh Bootsma)
Food and Toy Drive
Laura Wells exchanges Christmas well-wishes with an appreciative recipient. (Photo: Josh Bootsma)
Nate Smith
Lighthouse Community Church pastor Nate Smith (left) records a video about the food and toy drive for his church. Smith said his congregation donated toys and money to the event. “It’s super important to work with other ministries to try to get the faith-based community to do things collectively and together. We have volunteers here, we worked with a couple of local businesses to get donations of food,” Smith told The Lansing Journal. (Photo: Josh Bootsma)
Kelly Harris
Kelly Harris volunteered at Saturday’s event after hearing about it from a friend. “There’s a lot of people, especially right now this year, that are struggling so I just wanted to come out and do what I could to help some of them have a happy holiday,” he said. (Photo: Josh Bootsma)
Jackilyn Arteaga
Jackilyn Arteaga organizes volunteer forms and mans the sanitation station. (Photo: Josh Bootsma)
Jackilyn Arteaga
Volunteers from Restoration Ministries and Celebration of Life gather for a photo. (Photo: Josh Bootsma)
Event organizer Cam Sanchez said there were no food or toys left by 1:00 p.m. on Saturday. (Photo: Josh Bootsma)

The food and toy drive was held at First United Methodist Church, located at 18420 Burnham Avenue in Lansing, IL.




  1. What a wonderful event. This is the way all people should act. We need to help one another , always, not only when we have a pandemic.
    Thank you to all the volunteers and donators.
    Josh your coverage of this event was terrific.

Comments are closed.