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Eighth grader helps others this season

Instead of gifts for herself this year Madison Jennings wants to make sure that other children will have something for Christmas.

In recent weeks Jennings, of Fredericktown, organized a toy drive for children ages of 6 to 18 who live at the Faith Family Foundation Children’s Home in Fredericktown. She has already received several donations.

“I’m so proud of my niece Madison and her desire to help others. When we were shopping Friday she was more excited to buy gifts for the less fortunate than to find something for herself,” Misty Underwood posted on social media.

Jennings is an active eighth grader at Kelly A. Burlison Middle School in Fredericktown. She plays basketball and participates in beauty pageants as a hobby.

Recently while she was sitting in the car talking to her mom, Tracy Armes, about a pageant she decided she wanted to organize a toy drive.

Putting her plan into action, Jennings attended a pageant at West Park Mall in Cape Girardeau in recent weeks and it served as a collection location for donated toys.

Jennings explained that her aunt came up with an idea to encourage more donations by pageant contestants.

“My aunt (Misty) spoke to the pageant director and she agreed to let us make it a contest,” Jennings said. “(Misty) wanted to give a crown to the one who brought in the most toys.”

The director, Mindy Schmidt, agreed and the opportunity to donate was optional but open to all contestants. Jennings and her mom were able to bring home more than 100 toys from the pageant to be given to the local children.

“I chose the children’s home because it’s in town and I wanted to keep the donations local,” Jennings said.

She was concerned about the children there who may not get much for Christmas. She said some of them attend school with her at the middle school.

In the days following the pageant, Jennings and her family made flyers and posted information about her toy drive on social media. They extended invitations to donate to people both in and outside of Fredericktown.

They started requesting that area businesses act as drop-off locations for donated toys. They had a good and quick response and got at least six businesses to agree. Next, Jennings and her mom made large boxes to hold the toys. The two worked together making them out of cardboard boxes and decorating them with wrapping paper. Finally they took the boxes to the drop-off locations.

Her uncle helped get the word out in support of the toy drive. He also helped spread the word.

“We’re not sure how many toys we have now because we haven’t had a chance to check yet,” Jennings said earlier this week.

The last pick-up of donated items will be Saturday. The gifts will be delivered to the children’s home this weekend. It is best that the gifts are unwrapped, because staff will try to match each with a wish on the children’s Christmas lists.

The following is a list of the locations in Fredericktown accepting donations for the drive during their normal business hours:

Gloss Roots at 116 E. College St. is open Mon., Wed. and Thu. 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.; GT Express – Gulf at 1005 Walton Dr. is open seven days a week from 5:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Hill Insurance Agency at 120 E. College St. is open Mon. through Fri. 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Integrity Automotive Group at 608 E. Hwy. 72 and their hours are Mon. through Fri. 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Momma Becky’s Country Kitchen located at 285 Jennifer St. is serving Tue. through Fri. 6 a.m. to 9 a.m.; and Subway at 19 Courtsquare is open seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Questions and requests for more information can be directed to Tracy Armes at 573-944-4508.

Madison Jennings organizes a toy drive prior to her Christmas break. 

Madison Jennings organizes a toy drive prior to her Christmas break. 

Traci M. Black is a reporter for the Democrat News and can be reached at 573-783-3366 or at

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