HAMLET — These days the average adult must ask themselves if they are in fact as caring and loving toward others as children are.
Don’t be too quick on the answer — Drew Carpenter sets the bar pretty high.
The 9-year-old Hamlet resident helps his dad, Chris Carpenter, collect unwrapped gifts for the annual Toys for Tots campaign.
The Carpenters started the project last year. This year the charitable act has intensified. Chris has built a permanent toy collection box so that people can drop off toys seven days a week. The box is checked daily and has a padlock so the toys are safe and secure inside.
Scott Davenport, who lives across the street and operates a brilliant, 80,000-bulb Christmas light display, fell in love with the Toys for Tots drive because he was a lance corporal in the Marines. A competitive person by nature, Davenport said he wants collect more toys this year. As of Monday morning, Drew had a total of six boxes filled up to last year’s five — and there’s still more than a week to go before Christmas.
Davenport decided to have Santa and Mrs. Claus come visit at his Poplar Street home not one Sunday, but three Sundays in December. Frosty the snowman and an elf also happened to be visiting on Sunday night.
Drew’s grandmother, Marlene Carpenter, sat outside while Drew served hot chocolate and waited for members of the community to drop off toy donations.
“Drew realizes there are kids not as fortunate as him, he is a pretty good kid,” Marlene said.
Benny Leviner, Toys for Tots coordinator for Richmond County, thinks what Chris and Drew are doing is great. For every dollar donated, 97.5 cents goes toward toys — and 1,800 children will be helped this year through the Richmond County chapter of the Marine Corps League.
Davenport, an IT manager at Trinity Manufacturing Inc. in Hamlet, got the idea to do the light show after seeing the movie “Deck the Halls,” which has Danny DeVito’s character’s goal being to have his house seen from outer space. He uses Christmas lights and graphics to achieve this. Unlike in the movie, Davenport claims to have no feud going on with his neighbors.
“I have great neighbors, it’d be hard to do this without them,” Davenport said.
It took two and a half months with two other people helping him to put the lights up, but it will only take two days to break the show down. It takes eight to 10 hours to program each song into the system. There are 18 songs programmed, including three from Trans-Siberian Orchestra, “Jingle Bells” and “Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer.” This all coming from a man who does not even own a personal computer.
The Carpenters will be out selling hot chocolate for $1 while collecting toy donations again from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Dec. 22 at 504 Poplar St. Santa and Mrs. Claus will be across the street at 505 Poplar St.
Chris Carpenter, of Hamlet, had the idea to do something for charity last year to add to his neighbor Scott Davenport’s 80,000-bulb Christmas light show that is synchronized to Christmas music. Drew Carpenter, who was 8 years old at the time, started selling hot chocolate and had a Toys for Tots box in his yard each Sunday in December. Drew ended up getting five boxes filled up, and the Marine Corps gave him a teddy bear to show their appreciation for what he had accomplished at such a young age.