Homewood sisters continue hot chocolate tradition to benefit Toys for Tots for 20th year

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Friday, December 8, 2023
Homewood sisters continue charitable hot chocolate tradition
Mara and Kayla Winfrey, a pair of sisters from Homewood, have continued a hot chocolate tradition for 20 years to raise money for Toys for Tots.

HOMEWOOD, Ill. (WLS) -- Friday was a day a neighborhood in Homewood has been waiting for all year - Hot Chocolate Day.

Mara and Kayla Winfrey have been selling home-made hot chocolate out of a stand in the garage every year since they were little. They are now in their 20's and are still doing it.

"Our neighbors just expect it now," Kayla said. "They start asking what day is it gonna be, in October."

The money they raise all goes to Toys for Tots. The girls go shopping with the proceeds right after the event, picking out toys to help make Christmas a little more joyous for other kids.

The sisters made $50 the first year. It's grown every year since then. Last year they raised $11,000.

"People are very generous," Mara said. "We have been blown away with what people have offered."

They started out selling it for a quarter a cup. Now they don't charge, and people just donate whatever amount they like.

It's become a big production. Their mother, Maureen Winfrey, spends hours in the kitchen making the hot chocolate from her own secret recipe.

"There's a little bit of an art to it," Maureen said. "Has to be made just right. The stirring is important, and you have to add the vanilla at the end."

Of course, dad has an important role as well. It's what he called the behind the scenes work.

Dave Winfrey said he never imagined the girls would continue the tradition this long. Even through college, always on a Friday in mid-December, they keep the tradition going.

"Very proud of 'em," Dave said. "It's their way of giving back and paying it forward."

While the hot chocolate is still a big draw, the girls now draw donations from people who are unable to make it to the annual event. They accept donations through a number of apps.

They have no idea how long they can keep this going, but they said it's possible some day if they have kids, they will step in and take over.