Kathy Culpepper helped unload yet another bag of donated toys. She organized the first Whitney Bank Christmas toy drive four years ago.
It was quite small the first year, I think about 500 toys," she said. "Each year it's gotten bigger. Last year we had about 5,000. This year we've exceeded that."
It's become a year-round project. A third floor store room is stacked with even more donations. New toys are boxed and bagged. Used toys are carefully cleaned, refurbished and given new batteries if needed.
"The motivation is knowing that the children that are going to receive these toys are going to be happy, and it's not only the children we're helping. We feel like we're helping the parents with their self esteem. They too will be proud that their children have gotten something."
Whitney Bank employees and customers contribute throughout the year. Fellow employees say Kathy Culpepper's giving spirit is contagious.
"She doesn't think of herself. She thinks of others first. And she's such a giving person," bank employee Debbie Kronauer said. "This is obvious with all the toys that are here, how much she does care and how much she gives of herself."
Teddy bears, toys and assorted dolls will soon have a new home for the holidays. They'll bring happiness to thousands of children who might otherwise have nothing on Christmas morning.
"They're like getting a new toy, and we're real proud of that," Debbie said. "We feel like it's something a parent would be proud to give their children for Christmas."
The toys will be distributed by the Gulfport Police Department, Harrison County Sheriff's Department and Hancock County Fire Department. If you'd like to contribute, you can drop off a toy at any branch of Whitney Bank.