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'It takes a real heavy load off my back': Thousands of families hand-pick gifts through KGW Great Toy Drive

More than 42,000 toys and 600 bikes were donated to the KGW Great Toy Drive this year. Thousands of families picked up their presents at a special event on Satuday.

PORTLAND, Ore. — The holidays are shining a bit brighter for thousands of families throughout Oregon and Washington thanks to donations through the KGW Great Toy Drive.

Through generous donations from the community, thousands of toys and hundreds of bikes were collected for families in need this holiday season. On Saturday, those gifts were distributed to families at a special pop-up shop of sorts at Mannhouse Church’s four area locations.

People were on the hunt for the perfect presents. The scoured tables of toys inside Mannahouse Church in Northeast Portland to find that special gift for the kids’ in their lives.

Zanea Wiley is a teen from Portland. She was looking for something for her siblings and found everything from Slime and plush toys to gift cards and makeup. All donated to the KGW Great Toy Drive.

“I think it’s really amazing that we have this opportunity to go around and pick stuff for who we choose,” Wiley said.

The goal for the church's nonprofit Live Love is not just to make sure that kids get their gifts, but also to give parents a real shopping experience. Everything is done with dignity in mind.

Each family gets a hot meal and live entertainment either before or after they shop. Then, with the help of their own personal shopper, parents or guardians pick out toys for the kids on their list with mountains of toys covering dozens of tables.

After that, it’s onto the wrapping station where parents can either do it on their own or get help from talented volunteers.

“This is like Christmas morning for me. I get to cry and laugh and see thousands of lives touched,” Mannhouse Lead Pastor Marc Estes said.

About 600 families an hour made their way through the church Saturday, according to Estes.

“They walk through the door and they feel, most importantly, just love, but then they get to pick whatever they want,” Estes said. “And then it's a common occurrence, not to see smiles, but to see tears.”

Tears of joy and often tears of relief.

“It takes a real heavy load off my back,” said 23-year-old Angelica Blanco.

This Christmas is especially difficult for Angelica and her 21-year-old sister Christina. This past year, they lost their mother to a blood infection. Their father is a double amputee living with disabilities. And that left the two sisters to care for seven children in their home.

“I have to finish what my mom couldn't do,” Angelica said.

She wasn't sure her family would have presents to open this year, but that changed Saturday.

“I thought they weren't going to have a Christmas. I thought we were just going to have a tree and maybe one or two under there, but now there's going to be quite a lot of them under there when they wake up,” she said.

It was an emotional day for Angelica, but when she was surprised with two new bikes, she was overwhelmed with joy and thanks.  

“We got blessed today and I appreciate it,” Angelica said. “You have to be cheerful. You have to be grateful for each other, especially the community you have.”  

So many more people, just like Angelica, will be feeling that love too this holiday season thanks to the generosity of the community though the KGW Great Toy Drive.

Between Mannahouse church's four locations, Pastor Marc said they will help around 10,000 families this weekend alone.

Thank you to everyone who contributed to the KGW Great Toy Drive this year.

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