Joseph Nichols braved the cold Friday in search of a toy. And it paid off.
“This is the last one I needed,” said the 10-year-old, holding up a Black Panther figurine. “I already got Spider-Man, Ironman, Hulk, She-Hulk.”
Trophy in hand, Joseph followed his grandmother to the room where winter gear and food were being given out.
The Apostolic Faith Church at Indiana Avenue and Pershing Road has held a coat and toy giveaway for decades. More recently, the church has started distributing food, too.
Pastor Robert Tillery said the church started the coat and toy giveaway in the mid-1980s. The church’s 3,000 members support the giveaway, which in recent years has come to include only new items.
“We have a great responsibility to the community,” Tillery said. “Because of the pandemic, people’s economic and financial situations have really been impacted.”
The church expected to give away as many as 2,000 coats and about 3,000 toys.
“It looks like the Christmas version of the ‘Price is Right,’” said Tee Bruce, standing between several racks of puffy coats and stacks of toys watched over by Santa Claus.
The downtown resident, who began attending the historic church in the last year, was volunteering at the event with her husband and daughter.
“It’s a family affair to come together and give back to the community, to put a smile on people’s faces and a coat to keep them warm,” George Bruce said.
Jarielle Johnson was all smiles inspecting her haul.
“I got some makeup and things to do my nails,” said Jarielle, 8. She came with four of her seven siblings.
“It is a complete blessing for me because I’m a single mother,” said Jarielle’s mom, Jessica Clark.
The family drove in from the south suburbs to pick up Clark’s friend, Kayleigh Dunkers, and her daughter, 6, and twin boys, 2.
The South Side resident said the giveaway was a complete weight off her shoulders.
“I’ve been having a rough time,” she said, explaining she recently had to move because of an issue with her house in the Back of Yards neighborhood.
“I’m just grateful to have something under the tree for the kids.”
Michael Loria is a staff reporter at the Chicago Sun-Times via Report for America, a not-for-profit journalism program that aims to bolster the paper’s coverage of communities on the South Side and West Side.