Organizations collecting toys, coats for local kids at Wood Stone this month

(Second Helping founder Nate Walls at work / Courtesy)

Some local folks are collecting toys and winter coats for underserved kids this holiday season.

Local organizations Second Helping, in association with Light House Solutions, My T By Design and Wood Stone will host their third annual Toy Drive now through Dec. 22.

The drive is seeking new, unwrapped toys and winter coats and will distribute them to local families in need.

The drive began, Second Helping founder and chef Nate Walls said, when he discovered the need during the pandemic as he and others were looking for ways to help during the early days of the pandemic.

Walls met Wood Stone co-owner Jerrmy Gawthrop, who was also helping to feed folks in need during that time, and expressed the need to brighten the season for local kids.

“During COVID, I started feeding people comfort food and through that I met Jerrmy and we started working together, Walls said. “I am also partners with a couple ladies that had been doing toy drives for about 8 years now and sometimes the donations would come through, and sometimes they wouldn’t.

“I was telling Jerrmy about it, and he said ‘I think we can do something about that,'” he recalled. “They started accepting donations at Wood Stone, and it has just been getting better every year.”

Gawthrop said that partnering with Walls for the drive was an easy decision.

“Nate is about as close to a saint of a person as you can find,” Gawthrop said. “The stories (he told us about the need in the community) are just heartbreaking, and we just want to do everything we can to help.”

Walls said the toys collected during the drive will be distributed directly to Fayetteville kids and families in need.

“We work with a lot of underserved communities, people in Fayetteville housing,” he said. “Just people that are working, trying, and just can’t seem to make ends meet, people on assistance, and don’t know where to go for help.”

Walls said that, though the worst days of the pandemic may be behind us, the need to help out may be greater now than ever before.

“Things are just more expensive now, and when you talk to people who are trying whether to eat or get their medication, it’s just rough out there,” he said.

Those who’d like to help make the holidays brighter for some local children can drop off donations of new, unwrapped toys and winter coats an either of Wood Stone’s two Fayetteville locations during their regular business hours.

Wood Stone is located at 3619 N. Mall Avenue in uptown Fayetteville, and downtown at 557 S. School Avenue. The restaurants are open from 11 a.m. until 9 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday.

Walls said they’ll collect donations through Dec. 22, and then they’ll distribute them to local families before the holidays. Local organizations Lighthouse Solutions and My T By Design will assist with the distribution.

For more information about Walls organization Second Helping and his work in the community, visit his website.