COOLIDGE — The pandemic period has affected households nationwide and highlighted the ways in which many are struggling. The New Hope Community Church and Hope International Ministry partnered this month on their first toy drive to help service families for the holidays. This week, Toys for Tots will deliver the toys to 150 of those families.

A higher-than-expected number of families signed up. Hope International Ministry’s First Lady Audri Warren said people on the overflow list would be able to pick up toys directly, depending on what they had available. Warren said that they would potentially purchase toys themselves to fill the need.

In the effort to collect donations, the churches have found an unlikely ally in the “Cooltown Grinch,” an anonymous disguised member of the Better Human Coalition, who had been appearing at various locations around Coolidge for photo-ops in exchange for contributions to the Hope International Food Bank.

“The Grinch just contacted us one day and want to help us,” Warren said. “She wanted to get us some donations and food, and from there she just took off.”

The ministry also received some cash donations, including from Pacific Scientific Energetic Materials Company in Chandler, and from the Pita Patio Grill in Coolidge.

New Hope Community Church First Lady Michelle Young said the majority of requests were for infant socks and underwear; applications for toys filled up much quicker than expected, highlighting the need within the community.

“We recognize this is a difficult time, so we’re everything we can help or support,” Young said. “Especially during the holidays, we want to send the message that someone does care and that you are not alone, we are here as a resource as well.”

Hope International’s Food Bank delivers free meals to the community twice a month. Last Saturday New Hope Community Church conducted a ‘drive-through’ nativity show, which included giveaway prizes, hot chocolate and cookies.

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Aaron Dorman is a reporter covering Coolidge and the surrounding area. He can be reached at adorman@pinalcentral.com.