Judy Haluka is a kid at heart.
The Aleppo resident spends hours in toy stores buying items from baby dolls to board games to blocks to trucks. She’s gathering them for a toy store where families in need can shop for the holidays.
It’s sponsored by the non-profit Walking the Talk, an organization that offers help to the community.
On Dec. 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 full of new gifts for children of all ages. There will be some items for moms and dads, too.
People have been filling out forms so Haluka knows the ages of the youngsters, which toys to purchase and how many she will need.
“We want to make this as normal a Christmas as we can for the kids,” said Haluka, who started Walking the Talk 10 years ago. “It feels so good to do something to make people smile. I love buying all the toys, but I really love buying the interactive toys because they didn’t have those when I was little. The goal is to help as many children as possible. Families can take as many toys as they need.”
Walking the Talk has hosted toy drives in the past, but this will be the first toy store setting they’ve created. The church recently remodeled its social hall and was welcoming, Haluka said.
In the past, Walking the Talk has supplied toys to Sewickley and Leetsdale police departments for Christmas parties as well as a few other townships and police departments. Valley/Quaker Valley Ambulance collects toys each year.
This is one of many ways Walking the Talk helps the community. The organization gets requests throughout the year. For example, a young woman with a special needs child was unable to buy tires for her van. A member who owns a tire store helped.
Another family needed a deck around a pool for a special needs child.
They’ve provided furniture, clothing and housewares for people who’ve lost everything in house fires.
They’ve helped with medical and legal needs.
“We simply attempt to bring together those with resources with those who need them,” Haluka said. “It is a very simple, grassroots concept.’
For the toy store, Haluka invited friends to help – Mary Carolyn Nash of Aleppo and Verna Corey of Sewickley Heights.
“I wanted to be part of this as a way to give back to the community,” Nash said. “A lot of families are struggling right now, so this is a great time to do something to help them. It’s Christmastime and children should have toys under the tree.”
Nash said there is satisfaction when she sees the parents choosing toys for their little ones.
Corey said she can’t wait until the toy store opens.
“I want to see this joy,” she said. “Helping these families is so wonderful on so many levels. We need more random acts of kindness, and I am fortunate to be able to do this with Judy and Mary Carolyn.”
Corey compared Haluka’s passion for helping youngsters enjoy the time of being a child to actor Tom Hanks in the movie “Big” where he dances on the big piano.
“The look on his face, you see the inner child,” Corey said. “We want these children to have big smiles like Tom Hanks when they wake up Christmas morning to presents under the tree. We need those moments more than ever, that joy of a child, and Judy has dedicated her time helping to create those moments.”
People in need can email [email protected]