By Sheila Ferguson

This year, scores of Hough area families attended the Fatima Family Center’s 43rd annual Toyland Joyland celebration. On Wednesday, December 20, 2023 at dusk, families came from all corners of the community. Many came in cars and minivans. Some by way of the RTA’s #66. Others made their way on foot, dragging wire shopping carts across the snowy and ice-slicked sidewalks. Inside the Center, Fatima’s staff and a team of community volunteers dressed as Christmas elves and Santa’s helpers stood at the ready to serve and provide families with their gift boxes.
In keeping with tradition, the Fatima Center at 6660 Lexington Avenue partnered this year with Cleveland UMADAOP, CMSD’s Mary B. Martin, and Wade Park Schools, the City of Cleveland’s Thurgood Marshall Recreation Center, the Cleveland Public Library’s Hough Branch and the St. Agnes Our Lady of Fatima Church. This year’s festivities offered parents a hearty welcome at the registration table with to-go snacks, and both a drive-through or walk-up receipt of their Christmas gift boxes. In the space of the two-hour event, the air bustled with Christmas Cheer, as classic Christmas Carols, and the Super Soul Christmas hits by the Temptations, Donny Hathaway, and Vanessa Williams played in the background.

Toyland Joyland serves Hough neighborhood families with children ages 6 months to 17 years. Each year upwards of three hundred children and eighty elders receive this tremendous outpouring of love and gift-giving. Toyland Joyland aims to help families celebrate the bounty of the season, by ensuring that they have a joyous holiday. Even after 43 years, Toyland Joyland remains the high point of the Hough community’s celebration of the Winter Break with Christmas, Kwanzaa, Día de Los Reyes, and New Year. This year’s event was made possible by such donors as:
• The Cleveland Clinic,
• Ganley Chevrolet,
• The Baird Family,
• The Naples Wealth Group at Morgan Stanley,
• Knights of Columbus,
• St. Marks,
• Gilmour Academy
• John Carroll University; and
• The Church of the Resurrection

Keeping the Toyland Joyland tradition alive takes love and an enduring commitment to families. The tradition thrives because of Director LaJean Ray’s drive, tenacity, and commitment to community relationship building. Year after year she and her team begin planning and preparation the day after Christmas. If you have ever been involved with the Toyland Joyland team you would be inspired to help out in any way that you can. Toyland Joyland continues because Director Ray, Fatima staff, scores of church volunteers, high school and college students, and fraternity and sorority chapters band together. The real magic of Toyland Joyland is goodwill and overflowing love.

There is more. Each year area resident express their appreciation with notes of thanks to Mrs. Ray and her team. A few of the most touching notes of 2023 came from:
Mildred W. – “I am a caregiving grandmother. Several weeks ago, I received my little grands ages 3, 6, and 8 from Indiana. They came unexpectedly and with only the clothes on their backs. So, I thank Fatima’s CBS staff who have helped make a difference in our lives in such a short time. We thank Fatima for providing us with much-needed clothing, beds, and winter coats. But best of all our Toyland Joyland invitation was icing on the cake.”
Sam W. – “Thank you Mrs. Ray and the Toyland-Joyland team. I recently moved back to Cleveland from Coral Gables Florida. I was working in construction when my wife fell ill and passed away suddenly. I needed to return to care for our six daughters. Thankfully we had family support here. Please know how grateful I am for you and the Fatima Family Center staff. Your caring has built a community around us as we heal.”
P. Munoz writes – “My thanks to Fatima’s Community-Based Services team for accepting my call for help. I am a new Clevelander and the Fatima Center After School and Senior Services allows me to work and build a life for my family. Please know what a surprise it was to have been invited to the Toyland Joyland celebration. You helped me give my daughter and son a great Christmas!”

Finally, the Catholic Charities Corporation and the Fatima Center welcome your involvement. If you would like to become a sponsor or donor to the 2024 Toyland-Joyland, contact Mrs. LaJean Ray at 216-391-0505. Please know that no gift is ever too small. We value your generous gifts of time, talent, and treasure to help meet the needs of area families. We ask that you only provide new items. Most appreciated are books, arts and crafts supplies, socks, underwear, hats, sweaters, gloves, games, items of clothing, African American dolls, gift cards, toiletries, gift wrap paper, and gift bags. Again Toyland Joyland serves the needs of children and youth ranging in age from 6 months to 17 years. We look forward to seeing you next year!

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