La'Reka Marshall is bringing her toy drive back to Dover Friday, Dec. 20.
Eight years ago, La’Reka Marshall was homeless. Now, she gives back to the community that gave to her by hosting a toy drive for people in Delaware and Maryland.
“I remember what it was like being a single parent and not having gifts,” Marshall said. “I had nothing. No car, no job. Now, I’m doing this toy drive. And now my life has upgraded.”
The drive will take place from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Maxine’s NYF store in Dover, 146 South Governors Avenue down the street from Bayard Pharmacy.
Anyone living in Delaware or Maryland can pick up free toys and enjoy a cup of coffee and cookies. They will also have coats, shoes and clothes for anyone who needs it.
Marshall said she gets voicemails and emails constantly from people who need toys, and she can’t rest until she knows she has helped fulfill that need. She works extra hours during the holidays, so she can put money aside for the drive.
“How can I enjoy my Christmas when I know I didn’t do anything for someone else who is less fortunate than myself?” she said.
Marshall started the drive six years ago, and after the first year, the Omega Psi Phi fraternity decided they wanted to help.
“We’re excited about what we do in this community,” said William Hill, a member of the fraternity’s Psi Iota chapter for 47 years. The chapter in Dover takes on social initiatives all year. “I think life is simple. You do what you need to do,” Hill said.
Both Marshall and Hill said they wanted to share one message in particular with those in need:
“The biggest thing is don’t be embarrassed. We’re here for you,” Marshall said.
If anyone needs more than one item, the volunteers will help them. If people don’t have a car and can’t get to the giveaway, Marshall will deliver toys to their home.
“I can’t judge you because guess what? La’Reka Marshall was in your shoes before,” she said.
Watching children’s faces light up as they see all the toys is rewarding for the volunteers, Hill said.
“[You can see] the happiness and the joy that comes over them as they see little children happy,” he said.
Anyone who wants to donate or has a need can contact La’Reka Marshall at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Always spread love and kindness because when you spread love and kindness it just puts a smile on your face. It makes your heart smile,” Marshall said.