‘It means a lot to us.’ South Side church gives away cheer, hope and thousands of toys ahead of Christmas

In the spirit of the holiday, Pastor Kenyatta Smith’s Another Chance Church hands out more than 17,000 toys and puts smiles on children’s faces.

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A smiling child holds toys given out by Another Chance Church and Operation Cover Chicago. More than 17,000 donated toys were given out Wednesday evening.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Angela Pippen wanted to ensure everyone in her family got something for Christmas this year.

So she brought her daughters, cousins, grandchildren and other relatives to a gift giveaway on the South Side on Wednesday night, joining scores of other families for the event at Another Chance Church, 9524 S. Harvard Ave.

“They’re helping someone, and that’s the best thing in the world,” Pippen said. “The kids love to come, they love to get gifts.”

Pippen’s crew totaled 20 people, and they were all grateful that the church was giving them the chance to find something on their list.

“It’s all for the kids, and it’s a good thing,” Pippen said, adding that her family has come to the event in past years.

More than 17,000 toys will be given to thousands of children as young as 3 over the course of the evening, according to Kenyatta Smith, senior pastor of the church and chief executive of Operation Cover Chicago, which has organized the event for the last 10 years.

A child tries to decide between toys during a Toy Giveaway by Another Chance Church and Operation Cover Chicago outside Another Chance Church at 9524 S. Harvard in Roseland, Wednesday, December 21, 2022.

Kids as young as 3 and parents had tables and tables of gifts to choose from. Operation Cover Chicago has organized the toy giveaway for the last 10 years.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

“We are here to tell a child, your narrative has changed, you will have a Christmas,” Smith said. “We’re giving a toy, but on the other end, they’re receiving hope.”

Tables piled high with board games, puzzles, headphones, shoes, basketballs, action figures, hoverboards and other wish-list favorites sat inside a tent next to the church. Boys and girls beaming with joy carefully pored over the selection before making their choice.

CJ, 11, said he hoped there was a guitar somewhere in that pile, but he wouldn’t rule out picking up a game system instead. “Hopefully I’ll see some more stuff in there” he said.

He and two of his siblings waited in line with their mom, Tasha Triplett, 38, for about four hours to get near the front. The line of excited families snaked down Harvard Avenue and around 95th Street.

“It means a lot that they’re out here doing this for the kids because there’s a lot of kids that can’t get nothing for Christmas,” Triplett said. “So it means a lot to us.”

Nydia Bossie brought her 17-year-old daughter and 4-year-old granddaughter with her. They also waited for about four hours to get inside the tent.

“It helps the community a lot and just brings joy to a lot of kids’ faces whose parents can’t support them this Christmas,” Bossie said.

Smith said more families sought assistance from the organization this year because of the effects of inflation.

Pastor Kenyatta Smith next to toys that will be given away during a Toy Giveaway by Another Chance Church and Operation Cover Chicago outside Another Chance Church at 9524 S. Harvard in Roseland, Wednesday, December 21, 2022.

Pastor Kenyatta Smith of Another Chance Church stands in a tent next to the Roseland church with toys to be given away. “We are here to tell a child, your narrative has changed, you will have a Christmas,” Smith said.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

“We were blessed that the Chicagoland media, corporations, small business owners and individuals responded by donating new toys and accessories to our cause so that we can continue to bring smiles to thousands of children,” Smith said. Most of the toys were bought by the church thanks to monetary donations.

Operation Cover Chicago has other programs beyond the giveaway. It has sponsored a gas giveaway, provides mentoring, is involved in violence prevention, and has a housing initiative that has saved more than a dozen homeowners from foreclosure.

Smith said he was glad the church was able to hold the event ahead of the winter storm that is expected to hit Chicago this week.

“It’s a miracle on 95th Street,” he said.

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