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400 free gifts thrill children, parents at Christmas giveaway

FOX PARK – Things are finally turning around for Kionna Jones.

Not long ago, she was held up at gunpoint at the store where she worked in the Walnut Park neighborhood. 

Then she got a much better job doing security for Washington University. But as of Tuesday night, she hadn’t started work yet, which meant she didn’t have money for Christmas gifts for her three children.

That problem was solved on Tuesday, when Jones’ children received free gifts at a Christmas party and gift giveaway at the NexCore coworking office at 2631 Gravois Ave. 

“I think it’s amazing. It’s wonderful,” Jones said.

The collection of toys laid our on the floor of a room of NexCore certainly looked amazing and wonderful. They included a Black and Decker tool set for children, a Barbie doll, a giant bass drum, a Disney Infinity toy box and much more. Each person, including parents, was allowed to have two gifts, or one per hand.  

Activist Cedric Redmon, who organized the giveaway, said he was moved to hold it by increases in property taxes. Because of this, he tried to do something to ease the stress of Christmas.

He received a donation of about 200 gifts from two black Greek organizations, Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity and Zeta Phi Beta Sorority. Another 200 gifts came from employees at SSM St. Louis University Hospital.

That pleased Kandis Smith, who came with her son CJ, 8; her daughter Korinne, 5; and her nephew Brait, 4. The gifts included a Frozen II Activity Set for Korinne.

“It’s something awesome they do for the community,” Smith said. 

Marcus Smith shows off his toys from the NexCore Coworking Toy Giveaway Tuesday night as his mother, Sharia Smith, smiles in the background. (Photo by Robert C. Holt III / for MetroSTL.com)
While most came looking for gifts for children, politicians came looking for gifts of votes. 

They included 77th District state Rep. Steve Roberts, who is running for Fifth District state senator. Alfred Montgomery, who is running for St. Louis City Sheriff, also stopped by. 

“It’s a great event,” Montgomery said. 

Those who received the gifts got a sense of relief, Redmon said.

“A lot of people were elated that these types of toys were available for free,” he said.

Entertainer C Sharp takes a selfie with Lillie Jones, 3, and her two toys at the NexCore Coworking Toy Giveaway Tuesday night. (Photo by Robert C. Holt III / for MetroSTL.com)
Providing the venue were Jim Shelvy and Larry Cohn, the two partners in NexCore. This was the third year they hosted a Christmas party for the public. The day after, they held another for NexCore members.

Last year at Christmas, Shelvy and Cohn together provided $20,000 for five charities. They gave away more during the year. Shelvy said he didn’t know the final amount they’d provide this Christmas.

It was an easy decision to host Redmon’s event at NexCore, Shelvy said. 

“It’s really important that the community gets an opportunity to come along with what we are trying to do,” Shelvy said. “If we are doing a lot of great things in the neighborhood, we don’t want to leave the neighborhood behind.”

NexCore also hosts meetings of the Fox Park Neighborhood Association, Shevly said.

Jim Merkel

southsidemerkel@gmail.com Born and raised in the St. Louis area, Jim Merkel covered communities throughout the area from 1991 to 2013 for the old Suburban Journals of Greater St. Louis. He is the author of five books about the Gateway City published by Reedy Press. The latest is Growing Up St. Louis: Looking Back Through the Decades. He and his wife, Lorraine, live in the Bevo Mill neighborhood of south St. Louis with Miss Jenny the Cat. For more about Jim, visit www.jimmerkelthewriter.com.

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