Judy Haluka is a child at heart.
The Aleppo resident spends hours in toy stores shopping for items ranging from dolls to board games, blocks and trucks. She brings them together for a toy store where families in need can shop for the holidays.
It is sponsored by the nonprofit Walking the Talk, an organization that provides assistance to the community.
December 4 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at St. Matthews AME Zion Church in Sewickley, families can stop by and choose from a room filled with new gifts for kids of all ages. There will also be items for moms and dads.
People have filled out forms so that Haluka knows the ages of the youngsters, what toys to buy and how much she will need.
“We want to make this Christmas as normal as possible for children,” said Haluka, who started Walking the Talk 10 years ago. “It’s so good to do something to make people smile. I like to buy all the toys, but I really like to buy the interactive toys because they didn’t have any when I was little. The goal is to help as many children as possible. Families can take as many toys as they want.
Walking the Talk has held toy drives in the past, but this will be the first toy store they’ve created. The church recently renovated its social hall and was welcoming, Haluka said.
In the past, Walking the Talk has provided toys to Sewickley and Leetsdale Police Departments for the Christmas holidays as well as a few other townships and police departments. Valley / Quaker Valley Ambulance collects toys every year.
This is one of the many ways Walking the Talk helps the community. The organization receives requests throughout the year. For example, a young woman with a child with special needs was unable to purchase tires for her van. A member who owns a tire store helped.
Another family needed a patio around a swimming pool for a child with special needs.
They provided furniture, clothing and household items to people who lost everything in house fires.
They helped with medical and legal needs.
“We are just trying to bring together those who have the resources with those who need them,” Haluka said. “It’s a very simple basic concept.
For the toy store, Haluka invited friends to help – Mary Carolyn Nash from Aleppo and Verna Corey from Sewickley Heights.
“I wanted to be a part of this as a way to give back to the community,” Nash said. “A lot of families are struggling right now, so now is a great time to do something to help them. It’s Christmas and children should have toys under the tree.
Nash said there is satisfaction when she sees parents choosing toys for their little ones.
Corey said she can’t wait for the toy store to open.
“I want to see this joy,” she said. “Helping these families is so wonderful in so many ways. We need more random acts of cuteness, and I’m lucky to be able to do that with Judy and Mary Carolyn.
Corey compared Haluka’s passion for helping young people enjoy the time of being a child to actor Tom Hanks in the movie “Big” where he dances on the grand piano.
“The look on her face, you see the inner child,” Corey said. “We want these kids to have big smiles like Tom Hanks when they wake up on Christmas morning with gifts under the tree. We need these moments more than ever, this joy of a child, and Judy has dedicated her time to helping create those moments.
Those in need can send an email to [email protected]