MIDLOTHIAN

Toys for Tots is chugging its way into Midlothian’s Southern Star Christmas Celebration this weekend.

The Southern Star Christmas celebration is an annual event that kicks off the holidays in downtown Midlothian. With food, entertainment, a kid zone, pictures with Saint Nick himself and even a light-up parade, special events coordinator Gina Moore said the celebration has something for everyone this holiday season.

“This year’s event has a theme of ‘Miracle on 8th Street,’” Moore said, paying attention to the downtown street of the same name. “We will be playing the ‘Miracle on 34th Street’ movie up against the wall up on the building next to the parking lot downtown to commemorate.”

But in addition to the usual holiday festivities, the city has made a new addition to this year’s festival – a Toys for Tots donation box will be included next to the kid zone during the festival.

“There will be a donation box there to bring in any donated new or unwrapped toys,” Moore said. “They will be servicing Ellis County children for the first time.”

The Toys for Tots campaign is an initiative started by the U.S. Marine Corps in 1947 to collect new, unwrapped toys and distribute those toys to less fortunate children during the holidays. According to the Toys for Tots website, volunteers have distributed 548 million toys to 251 million less fortunate children over the past 70 years. The campaign distributed 18 million toys to seven million children last year alone.

Moore said Manna House had to register as an agency non-profit to be a listed provider and receive gifts on behalf of the campaign.

“They donate toys to different agencies,” Moore said. “The campaign only services non-profit organizations. Manna House had to register as an agency to be a recipient.”

Moore said the city had to work with the Midlothian Chamber of Commerce, the Downtown Business Association and Manna House to make the partnership happen. But now that they’ve succeeded, Moore said the committee thanked Manna House director Sissy Franklin by designating her as the grand marshal for this weekend’s celebration.

“You have no idea what Manna House does for the community, kids and families in need,” Moore emphasized. “And they do it year-round - not just during the holidays."

The Southern Star Christmas Celebration has free entry and runs from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 1 at Heritage Park, located at 234 North 8th Street. To donate or to learn more about Toys for Tots, go online at www.toysfortots.org