TSU, local non-profit’s toy distribution event benefits nearly 5,000 area children and their families

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University and a local non-profit were able to spread lots of cheer during the holiday season. The university and Simply United Together partnered again to host Toys for Tots on the campus to make sure hundreds of Nashville children awoke Christmas morning with smiles on their faces.  On December 17,  nearly 2,000 parents were able to select gifts for their children during the annual toy distribution organized by TSU and Simply United Together, a nonprofit that coordinates the pickup of donated toys.

A volunteer, right, helps Erica Dowlen picks out toys for her two children. (Photo by Aaron Grayson)

Erica Dowlen, of Nashville, a mother of a 6-month-old and a 6-year-old, was among those picking up toys. She said with a new baby and barely enough income to cope, she had nowhere else to turn.

“I really didn’t have anywhere else to turn and I heard about TSU. I went and was able to pick out some nice stuff for my kids,” said Dowlen. “I am totally grateful because this was a down year for me. I had just had a baby. I wasn’t able to work as I wanted to provide from my kids.”

It’s estimated that nearly 5,000 children, boys and girls up to age 12, received toys as a result of the program. Volunteers, including TSU students, staff, alumni, and representatives from area charitable organizations and churches, helped with the distribution in Kean Hall on the main campus. Since 2018, TSU has partnered with Simply United Together, and the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots to distribute toys on the TSU main campus. 

Volunteers help with distribution at the Toy for Tots giveaway in Kean Hall. (Photo by Aaron Grayson)

Assistant Vice President of Student Affairs, Dr. William Hytche, coordinator of the Toys for Tots program for TSU, said the university is thankful for the continued partnership with Simply United Together to serve needy families during the holiday. 

“It is an important service that I think we do as a community,” said Hytche. “TSU is in the community, so we like to serve the community whenever we get the opportunity. We have had this partnership with Simply United for over four years and it has worked very well.” 

A volunteer helps stack up toys for parents during Saturday’s program on the main TSU campus. (Photo by Aaron Grayson)

Benetta M. Sears, the local director of Simply United Together Foundation, said she is thankful that TSU has continued to be a site to serve families, especially during this “very critical time.”

“Tennessee State University is very positive. This is a community school also, and the people here are more willing and ready to serve the Nashville community, and we are thankful to continue our partnership,” she said. 

For more information on Toys for Tots at TSU, please call Dr. William Hytche at 615-963-5069.