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LifeWay Stores to collect Christmas toys for children

[SLIDESHOW=46558,46559]NASHVILLE (BP) — Many children who are spending Christmas in the hospital this year will receive a stuffed animal declaring the love of Jesus from LifeWay Christian Store customers.

From Nov. 24 through the week before Christmas, LifeWay Stores will collect toy bears, moose and penguins, each embroidered with the phrase “Jesus Loves Me,” from customers to give to local children’s hospitals, mission organizations and local ministries. This year marks the 10th anniversary of LifeWay’s Christmas stuffed animal drive.

“This is one of my favorite promotions each year,” said Mary Gowen, Atlanta market manager for LifeWay Christian Stores. “Our customers get excited to participate in bringing the love of Christ to hundreds of children. It’s amazing to be able to supply so many resources to local ministries through the generosity of our customers.”

Gowen manages the LifeWay Store in Morrow, Ga. This year, her store will be collecting stuffed animals for Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, for first responders attending to children and for Georgia Baptist Children’s Homes.

Customers can purchase and donate a “Jesus Loves Me” stuffed animal for $5 at LifeWay Stores this Christmas season. Last year, LifeWay collected approximately 45,000 toys for local children’s hospitals and ministries. These stuffed animals collected through LifeWay have even been featured on ESPN.

“The Christmas before last I was home watching bowl games,” said Jerry Sager, manager of the LifeWay Store in Birmingham, Ala. “ESPN featured a segment of players doing charitable work in the city. Several of the players were shown visiting sick children at the Birmingham Children’s Hospital. The final clip showed a player handing a sick child one of the stuffed animals our store had collected. These stuffed animals — with “Jesus Loves Me” lettering on the feet — were broadcast to millions of homes all across America.”

Sager’s store will be collecting stuffed animals for the Birmingham Children’s Hospital again this year. Other examples of ministries and hospitals LifeWay is collecting Christmas gifts for include:

— Jonesboro, Ark. — Arkansas Baptist Children’s Homes.

— Buford, Ga. — Lawrenceville food co-op of the Gwinnett Metro Baptist Association.

— Southaven, Miss. — Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital.

Customers can contact their local LifeWay Store to find out what ministry, mission organization or children’s hospital will receive Christmas stuffed animals collected in their area.

In operation for more than 90 years, LifeWay Christian Stores is the largest Christian bookstore chain in the United States with more than 170 stores nationwide. The stores are owned and operated by LifeWay Christian Resources with headquarters in Nashville.