Up to 600 children expected to receive gifts from Missoula toy drive

Donations to Griz for Kids and Mountain of Giving drives to benefit hundreds of families.?

MISSOULA, Mont. - Becoming a new mom has not been easy for Shacara Ferguson.

"I ended up not being able to find a job or a place to live, so I was staying in my car," said Ferguson.

For the last few months, the 23-year-old and 9-month-old Kayleigh have found shelter at Mountain Home Montana, which houses about 28 young mothers through the course of a year.

"We are safe, warm and fed. It's a lot better than living in a Prius," said Ferguson.

The holidays also will be warmer for the two, thanks to Santa's starting lineup of elves. It includes Grizzly football players and their Griz for Kids toy drive.

They hand off to Beach Transportation bus drivers, who know Missoula children very well and sort and categorize the donations.

"The bus drivers get to ask the kids, 'What did you get for Christmas?' In front of everybody, you don't want them to say, 'Nothing, Santa didn't come this year.'"

Mountain Broadcasting is assuring children Santa is coming this year.

The company partners with various businesses and the Missoula Federal Credit Union to hang tags for specific requests the Girz for Kids donations possibly didn't cover.

It's easy to take part. Just pull a tag from one of the 30 different trees around Missoula and go shopping for what the child is asking for.

"You can take one tag or multiple tags. On the tag is the name of a child and an age. I've seen anything from iPods to shoes. It's really what the child is in need of," says Janna Pummill, of the Missoula Federal Credit Union.

Mountain Home mothers wrap a number of the gifts.

"It's really fun for them to wrap presents for their own kiddos and for kiddos of other folks who are in need. So much of our time at Mountain Home goes to filling basic needs, it's really great to be able to fill a few wants," said Mountain Home Montana executive director Crissie McMullan.

Ferguson is thankful she and Kayleigh aren't living in her car this holiday and thankful a Mountain of Giving is showering down on families like hers.

"It's a blessing to have something for them to open up," said Ferguson.

Donors need to bring the requested gifts back to Mountain of Giving trees by Dec. 19.

Organizers ask you not to wrap them because they have to check to make sure the gifts are appropriate and safe.

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