Toy drive for Sandy victims

Dec. 01, 2012 @ 03:54 PM

While cleaning his room one day at the request of his mother, Nathan Oakes dug out an old yo-yo, sparking his idea to start a toy drive for the young victims of Hurricane Sandy.
The sophomore at Vance-Granville Community’s Early College is drawn to ministry and service work and spent his Thanksgiving holiday differently than most 16-year-olds. Oakes volunteered his time in Allenwood, N.J., with Tommy Pernell, a member of the Baptist men’s group out of Raleigh Road Baptist Church, and his wife Cindy.
Oakes’ toy drive collected nearly 350 toys, which were brought along on the trip.
“It went from finding the yo-yo to asking my mom if I could do a toy drive,” Oakes said. “It turned into something much bigger than I anticipated it being.”
While in New Jersey, Oakes witnessed the destruction caused to homes in the path of Hurricane Sandy, which devastated portions of the northeastern U.S. in late October.
“Some of the places, the damage was kind of what I expected,” Oakes said. “But there were other places where it was a whole lot worse than I thought it was going to be.”
For Oakes, volunteer work mainly consisted of spraying for mold and mildew, and helping to tare out floors, insulation and parts of the wall in homes with extensive water damage.
“They still didn’t have any food, any electricity, any water,” Oakes said. “We were up there giving them what we have, which was our talents of fixing what we could of their houses.
“They were just so thankful, and they had the biggest smiles on their faces when we came to their doors.”
In the area where Oakes was working all children had been evacuated. He left toys with parents, and in vacant homes so they would be there upon their return.
“Where we were, it was too dangerous for the kids,” Oakes said. “If the parents were there, I got to leave the toys for the parents, and if there weren’t parents there, and I heard that a child lived in that house, I would leave it a toy and a little note explaining my intentions of being there.”
Oakes’ mother, Amy Oakes, helped spread the word of Nathan’s toy drive at work and at her church.
“I’m an employee of Smart Start,” Amy said. “So, they were gracious enough to help with donations.
“Tabb’s Creek Baptist Church in Oxford donated monetarily. Their intention was for it to be used for Nathan’s trip, but he chose not to use it for that, he chose to use it for the toys.
“They helped out tremendously.”
Cindy Pernell and Oakes had never met before working together on the trip.
“I was a little hesitant about going,” Cindy Pernell said. “I was looking for some personal time at home.
“Nathan made my trip worth while. He has a huge heart and is willing to do anything you ask him to do.
“Anybody that’s got time to spend with him, I think they should, and learn what he’s got in his heart.

Contact the writer at amauser@hendersondispatch.com.