Santa hats, Christmas music and big smiles were the order of the day at the Lighthouse Foundation Thursday as the organization distributed toys from its annual Toy Store Christmas program.

The COVID-19 pandemic may have forced changes in the format of the annual giveaway which provides Christmas gifts for hundreds of Alcorn County families in need, but it couldn’t put a damper on the love shown by volunteers and the community, said foundation executive director Gary Caveness.

“It’s been absolutely amazing. The support and the love that the community has shown is incredible,” he said.

Lauren Butler was spending her eighth year as volunteer coordinator for the project and said while they had to move the distribution outside and alter the format to a drive through system, there was no lack of enthusiasm from volunteers.

She said it speaks to the love of Christ and unity of the community as volunteers from all races and walks of life come together each year to make the project a success. She said they understand people are hurting and in need this year and everyone involved is there because they want to share God’s love.

“This is needed now more than ever,” she said.

Sporting a big Santa hat, a reflective vest and an enormous grin, Marcus Simmons stayed busy directing cars to parking spots to pick up their gifts Thursday. Simmons said he’s been volunteering with the Toy Store since the beginning and pointed to the powerful example of his parents as driving him to service.

“It’s just what I was raised to do,” he said.

Simmons said he knows God has blessed him and his family and he’s thankful to be able to give back and help others.

Teenager Elijah Johnson paused for a moment as he delivered gifts to a car to talk about the Lighthouse. He said he’s grown up at the foundation and it’s made a huge difference in his own life so helping out with the Toy Store is just natural for him.

“I just love being here,” he said.

One volunteer made the long trip from Utah to rejoin what he calls his Lighthouse family at the Toy Store. A former assistant director at the foundation who spent the summers of 2003 and 2004 working with youth there, Morgan said he always tries to make time each year to come back and spend time in Corinth with the special friends he made there. He said he’s done a lot of traveling and worked many places but the fellowship, relationships and dedication of those involved with the Lighthouse is unique. Looking out over a parking lot filled with volunteers from all walks of life working together in harmony with a single purpose, he said the foundation has built a special community focused on the Lord’s work.

“It’s just a testament to the power of God’s word,” he said.

Caveness said while the need this year has been big, so has the support of the community.

“It’s just been awesome to see God working,” he said.

Fundraising is continuing to meet the budget for this year and the director said he knows God will provide.

“God is just so good,” he said.

Donations are being accepted now and can be made in person at the foundation or by mail to P.O. Box 2121, Corinth, MS 38835.

Banner Independent Editor

Managing editor of the Daily Corinthian’s sister newspaper, Booneville’s Banner-Independent, Brant Sappington has been a member of the Daily Corinthian family since 2001.

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