MANCHESTER, NH — A beacon is a guiding light, and in the spirit of holiday giving, the annual Tower of Toys gift giveaway at the Beacon Buiding on Elm Street is a shining example of our city’s generous spirit.
Anyone in need can stop by 814 Elm St. on Dec. 14 from 9 a.m. -2 p.m. and Saturday, 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. to “shop” for gifts, says Laurie Lawrence, who has helped organize the event for the past seven years. The three-day event started Dec. 13. Anyone with “a need and an honest heart” can come by to “shop” for gifts.
No paperwork required. No questions asked.
Lawrence said the idea for a Tower of Toys was inspired by a casual comment over coffee.
“We have a tower inside our six-story building, and one of the business owners said to me over coffee, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if we could just fill this space with Christmas toys?’ and that’s really how it started,” Lawrence said. Local businesses including Coldwell Banker, Colliers International, Cross Insurance, Red Arrow Diner and Flexecution Inc. have led the way, but in all there are as many as 20 downtown businesses supporting the cause.
This year Lawrence says she and her husband, Brian, were overwhelmed by the outpouring of gifts, which are delivered by guests during an open house the Lawrences hold in the Beacon Building for anyone who wants to stop by for some appetizers, a cocktail, and to get into the holiday spirit. They only ask that they bring along a gift.
“We got thousands of toys, it was overwhelming. I couldn’t believe it. People really want to experience the giving part of the holiday,” Lawrence said.
There are many great organizations helping to meet the holiday need, each one with its own purpose. Unlike some other gift-giving programs that have sign-up deadlines in the fall, what’s most unique about Tower of Toys is that it’s a walk-in experience that allows parents to stroll through and actually select toys, says Intown Manchester Executive Director Sara Beaudry.
“We’ve gotten involved in last two to three years. It’s an amazing event, thanks in large part to the generosity of the Red Arrow and the entire Lawrence family. We’re super happy to be part of it, and what we really like is that it’s for families in need right now,” Beaudry said. “Often people miss the deadlines of some of the other programs, so this is really a thoughtful way for people experiencing need to have some dignity while being able to pick up something nice for their kids.”
For Laurie and Brian Lawrence, it’s an annual affirmation that their city is the kind of place that cares for those in need. While Christmas gifts don’t solve every problem, it can make a world of difference to a struggling family, and especially to a child hoping for something special under the Christmas tree.
“By the time this is all done, Brian and I feel like it’s already Christmas. It’s just incredible,” Lawrence said.
Tower of Toys continues Dec. 14 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Sunday Dec. 15, from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. Anyone in need can go to the Beacon Building at 814 Elm St. and pick up gifts.