By Linda Looney-Bond
Donations of stuffed animals for Clayton County children who have been impacted by the local court system were almost double the amount expected in a recent toy drive, according to District Attorney Tracy Graham-Lawson.
The goal was to collect 300 teddy bears and other stuffed toys to give to children who are either victims of crime or have witnessed a crime occur. But Clayton County residents and organizations donated 580 stuffed animals, said Graham-Lawson.
"It's because of the great community we live in," she said.
The Office of Child Support Services, a division of the Clayton County District Attorney's office, conducted the toy drive as part of the Georgia Department of Human Resources "Bearable Hugs" program, according to Pam Brown, the Clayton County child support administrator.
Graham-Lawson, a former juvenile court judge, recalled a time in which she used a teddy bear to help communicate with a young girl who had been molested and initially would not talk about the incident.
"I gave her a bear and asked her to tell the bear what happened, and she did," Graham-Lawson said.
The toys collected will be distributed evenly among the district attorney's office, the solicitor general's office, and the juvenile courts. Each office will give the stuffed animals to children as needed, according to Brown.
"It's a very anxious time for these kids," said Juvenile Court Judge Steven Teske. "We need to be able to make court for these kids the happiest place possible," he said.
Among the groups donating stuffed toys were Jonesboro High School's Mock Trial Team and the school's Latin Club, which donated about 35 stuffed toys combined, according to Clayton County Solicitor General Tasha Mosley.
The official "Bearable Hugs" drive ended on Valentine's Day, but Brown said donations are still welcome.
Stuffed toys can be dropped off at the district attorney's office, at the Harold R. Banke Justice Center, 9151 Tara Blvd., Jonesboro.
For more information, call (770) 477-3450.