Center for People in Need event offers low-income persons presents for children

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Lincoln, NE – Justin Yohman, recently unemployed holds a pallet of gifts that are being prepared for the Toyland for Kids event at the Center for People in Need on Dec. 17. Yohman, a father to three, is relying on the center in order to give his kids Christmas presents.

Photo and story by Andrew Dickinson, NewsNetNebraska

After having 90 percent of his hours cut, a Lincoln father found himself without a job during the holiday season.

Jordan Yohman, 29, aside from surviving financially, was distraught over the idea of his three daughters, two of whom are 11-year-old twins with high-functioning autism, not receiving Christmas presents.

“(If they didn’t have gifts), with the fact that they have high-functioning autism, it would crush them beyond belief,” he said. “To them, it means nobody loves them, they take everything literally so it’d break their heart really more than any other child because they wouldn’t understand.”

But, with financial struggles in his past, Yohman had connections with the Center for People in Need. The center will be holding it’s sixth annual Toyland for Kids event this weekend, where parents can come and pick out donated gifts for their children.

For families to be eligible, they must complete an application process. One of the qualifications is the family must have an income of 150 percent of the federal poverty guideline or less.

The federal poverty guideline fluctuates depending on the amount of people in a family. For a family of four to be under the poverty line, they would need to make less than $22,350 annually, according to the Federal Register published in Jan. 2011.

The event is from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. on Dec. 17, 1 p.m. until 4 p.m. on Dec. 18 and 3 p.m. until 7 p.m. on Dec. 19. Toyland for Kids is in its sixth year, and is an event where toys are distributed to kids as old as 18. Last year, it served 7,624 children according to the center’s website, and Beatty Brasch, executive director for the center, expects that number to be even higher this year.

“Many of the families are extremely happy just because they’ve said, ‘We had no other place to get toys,’” Brasch said. “They’d have no other place to get toys for the holidays.”

But as of earlier this week, the center was unsure whether enough toys would be donated for the event to be successful.

“We were really worried about it, but the community has been extremely generous,” Brasch said, “So I think we’re going to be okay.”

Aside from this event, the center has been a significant resource for Yohman and his family.

“I came in here for certain health matters that I had when I couldn’t afford to get insurance at all,” he said. “They’ve helped me at any hard time that I’ve had and it’s helped out immensely getting over those bumps in life.”

All week, Yohman has been helping at the center, moving pallets of toys across a huge warehouse filled with tables covered in gifts. A woman at the front reception counter stopped in with a truckload of toys and a moving truck full of boxes was being unloaded into the warehouse. And Yohman is grateful for those donors.

“It’s a wonderful gift. I wish (the donors) could see the children’s eyes when they actually open up the gifts and play with them,” he said. “With a lot of the new products that they have, instead of some hand-me-down or already-used items, it means the world to them.”

Although the event starts at 10 a.m., Yohman said he expects parents to be lining up outside as early as 6 a.m.

“It’s like the Black Friday for people in need,” he said with a laugh.

Once inside, parents will be able to peruse aisles of tables holding gifts for different age groups and genders. The scene is currently chaotic, but Yohman and the dozens of other workers expect to have it organized and ready to go by the opening on Saturday.

The toys are received by the center from community donations, the U.S. Marine Corps’ Toys for Tots program, the Lincoln Police Union’s Santa Cop program and donations from the Allstate Foundation. Any further donors can bring toys to the center at 3901 N. 27th Street anytime before the event.