Free toy giveaway turns chaotic

December 23, 2009 3:27:56 PM PST
A toy giveaway turned confusing and chaotic. Hundreds of folks lined up for extra help for Christmas Wednesday. It was so packed that deputies were called for crowd control. They were waiting in a parking lot on Benson and Market in northeast Houston. Call it a sign of the times. People were standing in line for hours and hours just so their kids wouldn't have to go without this Christmas.

"My husband got laid off during Thanksgiving and he's been trying to find a job but it's been kind of hard," said toy recipient April Hernandez.

The free toy giveaway erupted in chaos and confusion after a major glitch was exposed in the plan to help hundreds of families in need.

"Most of the people that were in the line didn't even have vouchers," said Marcalina Washingoton, who waited for hours. "They didn't have any paperwork or anything stating the toy drive."

Case workers identified 500 of the neediest families and organizers and issued them vouchers ahead of time. Volunteers with Operation Outreach say they were flooded with people because someone standing in line outside early Wednesday morning started issuing fake ones.

"It happens all the time," said volunteer Julie Matthews. "No matter how much time you put in to make it right, to make things honest, to make it worthy, somebody is always going to turn it around for you."

By 10am, the mob was so huge that crowd control measures had to be put into place. Even as order was restored outside, the mission inside continued. For Annette Massingill, it's all about her grandkids.

"They're already excited, jumping for joy," said toy recipient Annette Massingil.


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