Just hours before their annual Christmas giveaway Thursday, leaders at Shiloh Temple said they were more than 1,000 toys short. The church put out an urgent plea and prayed for a miracle.
In a scant three hours, neighborhood organizations, foundations and even individuals from the suburbs stepped up to meet the need, filling tables inside the church at West Broadway and Fremont Avenue N. with everything from puzzles to board games to toy cars to serve 500 families.
"Today has been a blessing," the Rev. Richard D. Howell Jr., said in a video posted on the church's Facebook page. "I thank every one from the community for coming and surprising us and blessing this ministry with your gifts of love. Look what God has done because of your gifts."
The outpouring gave the church more than enough toys. Cressie Caldwell missed Thursday's giveaway but stopped by on Friday to pick up a baseball glove, a couple dolls and Hot Wheels for her five children ages 1 to 9. With her husband out of work, it would have been a bleak Christmas without the help, she said.
"This is overwhelming," she said tearfully. "This is a blessing. I am very thankful."
Tables were bare around noon Thursday when the church put out desperate appeals on social media, e-mail and KMOJ-FM radio.
Church officials say that a mix-up in paperwork with Toys For Tots led to the shortage. The nonprofit had donated almost 2,000 toys on Tuesday, said Twin Cities Toys for Tots coordinator Sgt. Joseph Neuer. That was about half what the church requested, said assistant pastor, the Rev. Andre Dukes. On Wednesday, Toys for Tots "generously gave us more toys, but it did not meet the needs that we had," he said.
That set off Thursday's extraordinary mobilization. Teachers, lawyers and neighbors dropped off toys. Plymouth Christian Youth Center sent over more than 100 gifts, crayons, gloves and other items. The Northside Achievement Zone (NAZ) spread the word. Target, Catholic Charities, New Horizon, the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis and Way to Grow chipped in. By 3 p.m., when the doors opened, plenty of toys were available. NAZ staff dubbed it "a Miracle on West Broadway."
"This is another demonstration of the rich community that we have," said Catrice O'Neal, director of Out-of-School Time for Plymouth Christian Youth Center. "This was an amazing, quick turnaround. We just linked arms and did it. "
For many families, it means a merry Christmas. For volunteer Valencia Swint, it is simply a Christmas blessing.
"It takes away our troubles to be giving things away," said Swint, who handed out toys Thursday. "It puts love in hearts and gave hope. That is what Christmas is all about."