DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- Volunteers with the Durham Rescue Mission spent all day Thursday preparing for the shelter's annual community toy giveaway and Christmas dinner. The afternoon was spent sorting and packing toys for the children.
William Caldwell who came to the mission last year is now working for the nonprofit and led the group of volunteers on Thursday.
"What we're doing is we're processing all these donated toys that the community gathered around and donated," he said.
"They're putting the three toys in a bag. We're gonna do a big toy, medium size toy, and a smaller toy," he continued as he showed us around the dining hall that was transformed into Santa's workshop.
Caldwell said the community stepped up in a big way.
"We've got a lot more toys this year, and we didn't really have to ask. The community just kind of gathered around and just started giving out the toys and donating them," he explained.
It's one of the largest contributions the mission has ever seen. Upwards of about 20,000 toys were donated to help make Christmas merrier for those who need a helping hand.
The generosity is coming when families are already having a tough time with their finances due to inflation and rising costs of food and shelter.
"There's just a lot of need in the community," said Rob Tart, CEO of the Durham Rescue Mission.
Tart said they can feel the need by the number of people showing up to the shelter.
"We got people coming into the rescue mission, and they're not able to leave after they get a job or get out because rents are so high. Some people are struggling out there," Tart said.
The mission wants to provide some relief by handing out toys for the kids, groceries for the home, gift cards for the parents, and a warm meal to eat.
"A lot of people, the elderly will come just for the meal. That tells you a lot," said Chuck McLean. He's a volunteer that showed up Thursday afternoon and won't leave until Friday afternoon once everyone gets a meal.
McLean has been volunteering with the mission since 1999, lending a hand for every big giveaway. He reflected on the first time he showed up.
"When I pulled up it was back to school. But there was a grandmother standing outside with like four or five of her grandkids at four o'clock in the morning waiting for book bags for school. "That's an impression that will never leave my mind."
That was 23 years ago, and McLean has shown up ever since also bringing his kids along to understand the true meaning of the holidays and what it means to give back.
The Durham Rescue Mission toy giveaway and dinner starts at 11 a.m. on Friday.