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Hundreds of supporters turn out for CASA toy drive

Clayton County Commission Chairman Jeff Turner thanks Ambassadors Behind CASA leaders for their work during a toy drive he held for the group Thursday night at Skyboxx Restaurant and Sports Bar in Morrow. (Staff Photo: Curt Yeomans)

Clayton County Commission Chairman Jeff Turner thanks Ambassadors Behind CASA leaders for their work during a toy drive he held for the group Thursday night at Skyboxx Restaurant and Sports Bar in Morrow. (Staff Photo: Curt Yeomans)

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Clayton County Juvenile Court Director John Johnson, left, and Commission Chairman Jeff Turner pack up toys at the end of a fundraiser Turner held for Ambassadors Behind CASA Thursday. (Staff Photo: Curt Yeomans)

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Hundreds of toys were collected at a toy drive fundraiser Clayton County Commission Chairman Jeff Turner held at Skyboxx Restaurant and Sports Bar Thursday.

MORROW — Hundreds of toys will be distributed to abused and neglected children this Christmas because of the generosity of Clayton County residents and government employees.

About 200 people attended a toy drive fundraiser Clayton County Commission Chairman Jeff Turner held for the Ambassadors Behind CASA program at Skyboxx Restaurant and Sports Grill Thursday night. Each person who showed up brought bags filled with toys for children served by the Court-Appointed Special Advocates program.

“It definitely shows the community is supportive of not only my efforts, but the efforts of the board in terms of giving back to this community,” said Turner. “It goes further to show, I think, that we have a giving community.”

The toys and financial donations collected at the event, as well as toys and money dropped off at the Clayton County Board of Commissioners office, will be officially handed over the Ambassadors Behind CASA officials next week.

Turner said anyone who wishes to donate toys or money for CASA children have until Dec. 18 to bring it by the commission’s office, 112 Smith St., in Jonesboro. The chairman has collected toys for the children for years, dating back to when he was the county’s chief of police.

In recognition of his years of collecting toys for the program, Ambassadors Behind CASA Board of Directors members presented him with a plaque.

“We finally get to recognize Jeff Turner for his many years of support,” said board Chairwoman Debbie Stinson, referring to the fact that Turner is in his first year as chairman of the county commission.

Carol Gossett, child welfare services and CASA coordinator for the county, said Ambassadors Behind CASA officials will use all of the donated money to buy additional toys for the children. She and ambassadors board Vice-Chairwoman Jane Glaze said the group hopes to provide Christmas presents for 200 children this year.

“We go through the wish lists that the children provide for us and then we get all of those gifts together, we call their custodians and then they come and pick up those gifts to put under the tree Christmas morning,” said Gossett.

Some of the items donated at the toy drive event included stuffed animals, a bicycle, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles action figures, tea party sets, board games, Nerf balls and remote-controlled cars.

The children never know where the gifts came from, and that way they are allowed to think Santa Claus came to visit them. But Gossett said the children are right — in a way — to think the gifts coming to them in that way. Santa just doesn’t look like the traditional image seen in advertisements and shopping malls, she said.

“We’re the Santas,” said Gossett.