Eighth Circuit Solicitor David M. Stumbo on Thursday distributed toys to several local organizations to help needy children have a special Christmas in what has become one of the most beloved traditions in the 8th Judicial Circuit for both program participants and office staff, as well as the local partner nonprofit agencies who distribute the toys to families in need.
The annual tradition that began nearly two decades ago allows participants in diversion programs – such as Pretrial Intervention, Traffic Education Program, and Alcohol Education Program – to purchase Christmas gifts for needy children in lieu of a portion of their community service hours.
Being able to contribute to the lives of others in the community is an enriching experience for participants in diversion programs, according to PTI Director Dale Allen.
“One of my favorite parts of my job is watching people’s eyes light up when they find out they can help children need as part of their program,” Allen said. “It makes a difference in the life of a child and the life of a participant.”
Each year, Allen directs participants to start bringing the toys to the office at the beginning of September. They toys are placed around a tree in the office and the toys begin spilling out across the common area until they are collected by partners in each county who distribute the toys.
The Christmas toy program finds itself right in the crosshairs of Solicitor Stumbo’s mission to balance accountability and restorative justice, though, according to Solicitor Stumbo, it is not exactly the place one would expect to find thousands of dollars worth of toys and over 20 bicycles.
“The Lord opens doors in the most interesting places,” Solicitor Stumbo said. “You wouldn’t think a prosecutor’s office would have the ability to collect so many toys, but every year we have the privilege to distribute them across our circuit and see those in need blessed through it. This is one of the best things we get to do every year.”