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Local retailers anticipate large crowds ahead of Black Friday shopping
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As she and her staff took inventory and restocked merchandise Monday, Diane Bunker, owner of the Tyler women’s and children’s store Spinout, said she’s expecting this year’s Black Friday shopping to be much bigger than previous years.

Last year’s Black Friday was OK, but she thinks this year’s going to top 2020 by leaps and bounds.

“I think it’s going to be stronger than it has been in the past (and it) seems like people are trying to buy local and stay local in their buying habits,” Bunker said. “I’ve seen just a huge resurgence and they like to feel (the clothes) and touch it, and of course, the clothing, they like to be able to try it on and that way they’re not sending things back.”

She’s owned the store for 35 years, and in preparation for Friday, she and the employees are restocking to prepare for the incoming holiday demand.

“We took the advice of our reps that sell us our products, and they said buy early and buy a lot because once you really need it it’s not going to be there,” she said. “Right now, the store is very full; we’re ready for them to come and purchase.”

Her advice for shoppers when looking for a gift is “if you see it, you’d better get it then.”

“Just kind of have it slipped in a hidden closet or something like that, but at least you’ll have it because we’re not going to be able to get it before Christmas,” she said.

At Broadway Square Mall in Tyler, the doors will open at 6 a.m. Friday and close at 9 p.m., said Candace Foster, the mall’s director of marketing and business development.

Some stores will have differing hours, such as J.C. Penney, which is opening at 5 a.m. Shoppers should check with each store to find exact opening and closing times, Foster said.

“We’re expecting full parking lots, and we’re expecting a lot of families and shoppers to come and take care of most of their holiday shopping with all the deals that are rolling out for Black Friday,” Foster said, adding that the earlier people shop, the better. “You’ll have a better selection of sizes and colors and the deals that you’re looking for the earlier you come.”

Foster said all the mall stores are prepared ahead of Black Friday, and she encouraged people to come prepared for shopping and safety.

“Make sure you have a list of all the stores that you want to hit and all the people you need to buy for,” Foster said. “Be sure to take your belongings with you like your purse; keep everything locked up and keep your belongings (the stuff you purchased out of sight). Put them in your trunk and make sure they’re not in plain sight in your vehicle.”

Mall security will be patrolling, and the mall leaders also partner with Tyler Police Department during the holiday season, Foster said.

Bunker said at Spinout they appreciate customers that support local merchants.

“I really think since we were closed (last year) and they couldn’t shop locally that all of the sudden they’re like, ‘I want to make sure that they stay open and don’t close because we aren’t supporting them,’” Bunker said. “Shopping local has really been emphasized over the last 18 months and we appreciate it.”

Spinout, 7266 Old Jacksonville Highway, will maintain its regular hours on Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Bunker said she recognizes the true bargain shoppers are going to be standing in line at Best Buy or Walmart in the early morning.

“By the time they get here, they’re still in the groups of women that have gotten up doing it together as a family or friends, but they’re kind of ready for a slowdown or slower pace,” Bunker said. “They’re out in those lines and then they come and they’re ready to slow and shop.”

Salvation Army feeds community, first responders with annual Thanksgiving meal
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The Salvation Army in Tyler is fulfilling its annual mission of making sure the community is provided with a traditional Thanksgiving meal.

The annual lunch will be served beginning at 11 a.m. until 1 p.m. this year and organizers anticipate feeding about 1,000 guests. Meals will be served to-go or delivered due to the pandemic, said Cindy Bell, Director of Development of Salvation Army in Tyler.

About 50 volunteers took part in the special preparations on Wednesday afternoon, helping to carve turkeys and slice pies.

Every year the process is different, Bell said, but this year a record was broken when volunteers finished preparations in just an hour. In 2020, volunteers spent several hours getting everything done due to the lack of volunteers.

“Last year, I thought I had enough volunteers, 10 or 12 to come and do this and it turns out only four or five showed up,” Bell said. “I wanted to avoid that this year. I had about 75 lined up and 50 showed up, I had no idea of knowing they completed their service in one hour.”

Over 200 volunteers are set to help on Thanksgiving Day. Bell also mentioned that some started signing up as early as July.

“They like giving back, it’s very important to them. At this time of year, it just means a lot when you’re grateful for what you have,” she said. “You want to be able to give back to others who don’t.”

This year’s meal will include turkey, cornbread dressing, gravy, cranberry sauce, green bean casserole, candied yams, dinner rolls and either pecan or sweet potato pie.

The main component to the meal was made possible thanks to a local company, Bell said.

“One hundred turkeys were donated by Greenberg Smoked Turkeys,” Bell said.

Bell said meals will be delivered to first responders who are on duty during the holiday, with the help of another set of volunteers.

The Salvation Army is supported by many in the community during this time to help offset the costs of the meal.

“We are so thankful for the community and their generous support,” Bell said.

Bible verse 11.25.21

“So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.” (Colossians 2:6-7)

Rose City Toys for Tots in need of donations, volunteers
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As Christmas approaches, Rose City Toys for Tots is gearing up to impact thousands of families around East Texas.

The local Smith County Toys for Tots campaign was initiated by the Rose City Detachment of the Marine Corps League and is currently in need of donations, and volunteers.

Donald Monn, Rose City Toys for Tots Coordinator, said the organization impacts around 3,000 East Texas families each year.

“No child should go without Christmas, that’s our motto and we try our best for a child not to go without it,” he said. “My reward is seeing smiles and knowing I’m putting it on the kid’s face, it’s a great feeling. I raised a family, and there’s times when times were hard. I know how it feels to have hard times, so we try our best to work with them.”

Toys given out range from reading books, toy cars, board games, makeup, dolls, bicycles, sport items and even toys locally made by East Texas businesses. Items are given to families based on the child’s toy preference, allowing them to receive something they will enjoy.

“It depends on what they want, a generalized list. We go as close as we can to what the child likes,” said Regina Monn, who is Donald’s wife and a Toys for Tots volunteer.

Donald Monn said with the help of local businesses and money donations, the organization can purchase toys that are favored.

“Some businesses and others also contribute money, and if we don’t have some toys that certain kids would like to have then we go purchase it,” Donald Monn said. “A lot of money comes from local businesses and all the money goes to local kids, none goes to our pockets. All goes to the toys for the kids, money is always welcomed.”

Toys for Tots caters to children ages 2 to 12 years old but sometimes it helps those outside the age group with the goal of making a good Christmas for the family.

Monn said the goal is to give each child at least five toys, with three or four stocking stuffers, and at least one bike for each set of family.

The organization will be hosting its last sign-up day next week on Dec. 3, from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Armed Forces Reserve Center in Tyler, where families in need have an opportunity to sign up for the toy distribution one last time.

To sign up for the toy distribution, families are required to bring their child’s birth certificate and a proof of residency. Then gifts are set to be distributed on Dec. 18, at the Armed Forces Reserve Center in Tyler for the families who applied.

The organization is still highly in need of donations which can be in the form of new toys or check donations.

“We don’t throw anything away, anything that comes in later we keep and donate it next year.” he said.

He also emphasized the hardest toys to receive are those for the older kids and encourages people to donate for that age group. He also said bikes, especially for older children, are appreciated.

Money donations can be made in check form to ‘Toys for Tots’ and sent to 810 Miller Frankston, Texas. Unwrapped new toys can also be placed in Toys for Tots drop-off boxes that are scattered around Tyler in local businesses such as Ollies and Dollar General.

Donn mentioned toy drive drop-off boxes can still be distributed and local businesses are welcome to ask for one.

Those who want to volunteer can choose from three hour slots, and are able to pick from different stations such as packing gifts for families, signing up families for toys, delivering boxes and picking up toys.

For more information, contact Donald at (903) 978-0311 or go to https://tyler-tx.toysfortots.org/local-coordinator-sites/lco-sites/default.aspx?nPageID=100&nPreviewInd=200&nRedirectInd=3.