Jeff Turner hosting toy collection for CASA

Former Clayton County Police Chief Jeff Turner is trying to see if he can collect more toys for needy children this year, than he did last year.

Turner collected enough toys to provide Christmas presents to 150 children in the care of the Clayton County Court-Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) program a year ago, in his first effort to conduct a toy collection for the program. This year, he said, his goal is to collect enough toys to provide Christmas for 250 children in the program’s care.

“I’m doing this because CASA deals with neglected and abused children,” Turner said. “I’ve seen a lot of children, who are victims of unfortunate circumstances. Times are hard, and anything I can do to help these children have a better Christmas, I’ll gladly do.”

Turner, who is also planning to run for county commission chairman next year, will host a meet-and-greet CASA toy collection event Friday, from 5 p.m., to 8 p.m., at Luellas Restaurant, located at 7955 Tara Boulevard, in Jonesboro. Luellas and Positive Press PR are sponsors for the event. The toys and money will be donated to the annual toy drive organized by Clayton County CASA’s Ambassadors Behind CASA group.

“We’re going to try to collect as many toys as possible,” said Positive Press PR Senior Publicist GlenNeta Griffin.

People are asked to bring new, or “like-new” toys, or financial donations for Clayton County CASA to the event, Turner said. “We try to encourage people to donate new toys only for the kids, but if someone has a toy that has hardly been used, and is in pretty much new condition, then we’ll accept it as well,” the former police chief explained.

Gerald Bostock, the child welfare services coordinator for Clayton County CASA, said the gifts will go to children ranging in age from infants, to 17-year-olds. He said the gifts, which he said could range from crayon sets, to baseball gloves, to clothes, will mainly go to children participating in CASA’s “In Relative Care” program, although a few children in foster care could also receive gifts.

CASA’s “In Relative Care” program is an initiative where a relative, usually a grandparent, or aunt, or uncle, assumes responsibility of a child, as his or her legal guardian after the youngster is removed from an unsatisfactory home environment, Bostock said. Several times, these relatives do not have enough money to provide a Christmas for the children, according to the child welfare official.

The children make wish lists of items they would like to receive for Christmas, and toys are not always the main things on these lists, he added. He explained that one year, a little girl requested only a nice dress to wear to church, some undergarments and some socks, because her grandmother could not afford to buy them for her.

“Some of these kids are in survival mode,” Bostock said. “They know, and understand, that grandma can’t afford to buy them all of the basic necessities, so those are the things that they ask us for, at Christmas.”

Bostock and Turner also said the only types of toys they are asking people to not donate are items which can be used to mimic violence, such as toy guns or knives.

“We try to be creative with what we give the children, but it’s the more aggressive types of toys that we try to stay clear of,” Bostock said.

Bostock added that any person who cannot attend the toy collection event, but would still like to make a financial, or toy, donation, can call (770) 477-3268, for information about doing so.