Sunday, June 23, 2024

$74,900 raised for Living Word Church’s Annual Christmas Toy Drive


With the onset of the holiday season, the reality that many families and children are still very much in need has driven generous donors to give in abundance. To ensure that no child will be without a toy this Christmas, Living Word Church has been gifted a check for an incredible $74,900 to benefit its annual toy drive! San Pedro’s Caye Bank Chairman and former ambassador Joel Nagel was a driving force behind the fundraising campaign, alongside Michael Cobb of ECI Development. Together, both gentlemen were able to obtain generous donations from clients, shareholders and friends to ensure a most happy Christmas for the children of Ambergris Caye.

Living Word Church Toy Drive
(L-R) Joel Nagel – Chairman, Caye International Bank, Gladys Urbina – Chief Operating Officer, Caye International Bank, Pastor Ian Zaldivar – Living Word Church, and Rachel Jensen – VP of Sales & Marketing, ECI Development.

“I grew up as a poor farm kid, without a dad,” says Nagel. “Making sure these children get a toy at Christmas is personal.” He has always been an advocate for embracing community, and through the Living Word Church, has found a way to connect with the most vulnerable population.

Michael Cobb, CEO of ECI Development is encouraged by the success of this year’s toy drive as well. “To be a part of this fundraiser every year is incredibly fulfilling. ECI Development is founded on community and social responsibility, and each year that we are able to make even a small difference in children’s lives is a success to us.”

(File Photo, 2019) Over the years, the number of children receiving gifts has increased significantly.

Since 2010, Nagel, Cobb and their associates have been a significant force behind the annual fundraising campaign that had its most humble beginnings. Pastor Ian Zaldivar of Living Word Church recalls his earlier attempts to bring joy to children at Christmas. “I come from a family of 13, and we grew up extremely poor. After being called to the ministry, I wanted to be able to give to those who had little to nothing.” Thus began his quest to provide the poorest of children with a toy at Christmas. The project’s humble beginnings saw about 15 cheap toys being handed out, and about 40 the next year. Pastor Zaldivar would not give up on his mission, however, and in 2010, he met Joel Nagel, who asked how he could help. “Joel has made it grow to this magnitude; donating and adding tens of thousands of dollars and enabling the church to reach a much larger group of kids.” Over the past 10 years since this toy drive has been funded, over 13,000 toys have been distributed to thousands of island children. The goal has always been the same, to provide children with a quality toy that will last beyond the first day of play, and can provide endless entertainment. Capping off at around 1,500 quality toys for children, the remaining funds are going to family food baskets to families most in need.

In years past, Zaldivar enjoyed being able to minister to the gathered crowd before distributing toys. Due to the pandemic, the past couple of years have been subdued. What has not changed is the generosity of donors. “People need an abundance of God’s love, and what we try to show every year through this event is that whether with a little or a lot, the reason is love. Somehow, our partners have continued to give [despite Covid]. But even if we couldn’t meet a financial goal, we would find a way to continue.” Much as Jesus was able to feed thousands with a few loaves of bread and fish, the goal has always been to ensure the children’s happiness. “We have only had to be creative as a church in how we preach the gospel – doing home and neighborhood prayers before handing out presents. We can’t wait to get back to our group gatherings and church!”

The toys and food baskets will be handed out on Monday, December 20th. As is tradition, each child will also receive a cupcake and drink.

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