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Donations pour in for Kansas City children’s center facing Christmas without toys

Children served by the Emmanuel Family & Child Development Center in Kansas City will be getting presents after all thanks to a flood of donations.
Children served by the Emmanuel Family & Child Development Center in Kansas City will be getting presents after all thanks to a flood of donations. File image by The Associated Press

Christmas will come to the Emmanuel Family & Child Development Center in Kansas City after all.

The center faced the prospect of disappointing more than 300 children after officials missed the deadline to receive presents for them from the Marine Corps charity Toys for Tots.

But generous people around the Kansas City area responded with money and toys. The response was so great, many people had difficulty getting through to the center on the phone.

Deborah Mann, executive director of the center at 2416 Swope Parkway, said she was up until 1 a.m. Wednesday buying toys online from Wal-Mart. She was at the store in Raytown later Wednesday morning to pick them up.

“Kansas City is really reaching out, and my tears are tears of joy,” Mann said. “It’s amazing. People are calling and asking to help.”

The child center usually has a party a couple days before Christmas for the more than 200 day care and after-school children it serves. More children come to another event on Christmas Day where food, clothing and personal care items are also offered to adults. Children traditionally receive presents at both events, which are held at the Emmanuel Community Center, 3510 Prospect Ave.

But after a four-year relationship with Toys for Tots, child center officials this year overlooked an email from the organization saying it needed a list of children to receive toys by Nov. 18. Center officials did not realize the mistake until Monday.

Donations began to come in after the crisis was reported by The Star. A half-dozen people on Tuesday dropped off bags of toys. Others gave cash. A Kansas City attorney and his girlfriend had purchased toys to donate to Toys for Tots, but they missed the deadline as well. They decided to give the toys to the Emmanuel center.

Another man ordered toys from Wal-Mart and arranged for them to be picked up by the child center.

“I didn’t even know you could do that,” Mann said.

On Wednesday afternoon, the Mayor’s Christmas Tree Fund of Kansas City told child center officials it would provide money to cover whatever else was needed.

The outpouring of generosity alerted center officials to a glitch on their website: Clicking on the “donate” prompt does not work.

They’ll have to work on that, but for now the spirit of the season prevails.

“We will be giving out toys on Friday and then again on Sunday,” Mann said. “It is working out.”

Matt Campbell: 816-234-4902, @MattCampbellKC

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