Organization overcomes violence to deliver toys

December 23, 2011 (CHICAGO)

It was around this time last year that the group was dealt a crippling blow. The van they used to deliver toys was set on fire.

Toys and clothes distributed by the organization to families that would otherwise go without during this holiday season - call it the 'Miracle on 79th Street'. Although they are helping many people they still need help too.

Using toys to try and save kids in rough neighborhoods is what Kidz Korna at 79th and Ashland is all about.

"Just pulling kids up off the corner trying to give them a different way of life and living," said organizer Delece Williams.

The location sits in what they call a four-cornered "war-zone." Each corner is claimed to be a different gang turf.

Kids waiting at the bus stop are afraid of being the next victim of gang related gunfire.

So Delece and her volunteers try and save neighborhood families, like Debra Jones and her two kids, one toy at a time.

"It may not be a lot, but it's joyful to have something to share and to take you beyond your reality of what's really happening in your life," said Williams.

"When they know that somebody actually really cares and there are places to go to, it helps a lot," said mother Debra Jones.

Kids are not the only ones falling victim. The organization had its own share of violence last year.

"We were out getting ready to get started for our 5th annual toy giveaway and somebody set our van on fire - it was right after Thanksgiving - and we were outdone because we didn't know what we were gonna do," said Williams.

Three vans and over $50,000 dollars worth of donations came in, so the group is able to continue their mission.

"We wanna give them love as well, let 'em know that we love 'em, we got some parents out here that are concerned about them, concerned about the violence taking place in the community," said Williams.

This year, they even brought out a familiar face: "In Living Color" and "That's So Raven" actress T'Keyah Crystal Keymah, who grew up here.

"It was always a loving neighborhood - that's what hasn't changed," said Keymah.

"I want him to have a very happy Christmas," said mother Domanique Cofield.

It is a small price to pay to make these small faces happy again. Many of the volunteers were once victims to the neighborhood too. They use their experience to counsel others and get them on the right path.

"As they get a gift they promise to help us stop the violence in the Auburn-Gresham community, and in some of the surrounding communities," said Williams.

The group does need more help; last year, they were able to give away 3,000 toys and books. This year, the number is down to just 1,000.

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