Chicago woman ensures thousands of Englewood children get Christmas presents this year

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Thousands of children in Englewood are the focus of a community leader who has emerged from difficult circumstances to give back.

Geraldine Mayberry Smith of Life Builders United is making sure thousands of children in the South Side neighborhood have something under their tree at Christmas. It's an opportunity she's always wanted to have after being incarcerated for 19 years.

"When I was sitting in the cement coffin, the hardest part of that sitting was I had an 8-month-old baby when I went to prison, and at holidays, I long suffered for that child, wondering who would take care or look after my child for me," she said.

Saturday marked her 11th annual toy giveaway.

"They want to feel love and they want to give love and Geraldine has supported these children and so she has mentored them," said Shannon Beard.

Many of these children, especially some of the older ones, are homeless.

The first edition of the toy drive this season almost didn't happen due to a lack of donations. But after ABC7 retold Geraldine's story on December 6, the donations flowed in and they haven't stopped.

"Each year, there are more children that need toys. They need coats. They need shoes. They need food, they need housing," said volunteer Frances Darby.

Dorothy Holmes said it's "a blessing because we have a lot of parents who cannot afford to get their kids anything for Christmas."

Thousands will have a sweeter holiday thanks to Geraldine, but she said the thanks should be more widely spread.

"It is the people of Chicago, people of the humanitarian heart to reach out to the people, is the reason this happened," she said.

It's called the CHIP giveaway because it was originally intended for children of incarcerated parents. But soon Geraldine realized the need was greater than that.

Now her organization helps any children in need.
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