John Avery Toy Drive makes the season jolly

Do you want to give back to your community but feel like you can’t because you don’t know how?

Nautica Lane

Nautica Lane

If so, come join the John Avery Boys & Girls Club for its first annual Toy and Coat Drive.

The free event, presented by the Raleigh-based marketing firm NINETY SIX, is Saturday, December 21 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on North Carolina Central University’s campus at the LeRoy T. Walker Physical Education and Recreation Complex.

NINETY SIX founders Brittany Cooper and Bianca Parker said the event was inspired by a passion for wanting to give back to the community by helping children have a brighter holiday. Christmas toys and coats for underprivileged children are being collected throughout Durham and surrounding communities.

Attendees are welcome to bring new, unwrapped toys and/or new or gently used coats to the event. There are also five different drop boxes for items located at sponsors of the event across town. They include:

  • Down Town Locker Room (DTLR) of the Streets at Southpoint: 6910 Fayetteville Road, Durham, North Carolina 27713 (upper level)
  • NCCU Campus Recreation: 1801 Fayetteville St. Durham NC 27707
  • The Kappa Omicron Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated of UNC Chapel Hill: Carmichael Residence Hall, 101 Stadium Drive, Chapel Hill, NC 27514

Monetary donations are also welcome and can be given by visiting or mailing them to the John Avery Boys & Girls Club of Durham at 808 E Pettigrew St., Durham, NC 27701.

Cooper and Parker, decided to name their company after the year they first met – 1996. Although based in Raleigh, they both visit the John Avery occasionally and said the help is needed.

While both women were raised in Raleigh, Cooper went to Wakefield High School and Parker to Knightdale High, they never explored Durham until after recently moving back to the area from New York and Los Angeles.

After meeting up with an old friend working at JABGC, Eric Jeffers, the teen and gang prevention program manager, they found their way to help a community.

Parker said it can be hard for someone who did not grow up like some of the over 130 kids JABGC serves everyday in their after-school programs and summer camp.

“It’s hard for someone who hasn’t been in these kids’ shoes to understand,” she said. “Maybe you should take a step back so you can see exactly what it is you have.”

“Count your blessing and be a blessing to others,” she said.

Cooper said the holidays could be tough on some kids because they might be looking more at what they don’t have instead of what they do.

The hope is that the toy and coat drive can help change some of that.

“When they grow up, they will appreciate it more,” Cooper said.

Donations have come from corporate sponsors like Target and more than 40 volunteers from JABGC, local businesses and community members will be helping to pass items out.

People are welcome to stay for the whole event or just drop by. The agenda has many fun activities along with passing out toys and coats. There will be a DJ, a basketball shootout, face painting, Christmas card making and other holiday activities.

Stressing giving back, Cooper and Parker said restaurant owner John Fitzgerald of Fitzgerald Seafood, located at 2105 E. Millbrook Rd in Raleigh, will cater food for the event. Even though Fitzgerald’s restaurant was severely damaged in a fire earlier this month, he will still provide free food.

“It just goes to show what this means to the community,” Cooper said.

Parker said people often forget the meaning of the season but she is still expecting a large turnout this weekend.

“It’s about making a child smile,” she said. “If you can’t be a blessing, come out and receive one.”

Cooper agrees.

“If we can do it, everybody can do it,” she said. “It’s about having a voice in the community.”