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Toys and turkeys brighten holidays for relatives of inmates

Nine-year-old JaydGreen Grayslake visits with SantClaus. | CHRIS CASHMAN/FOR SUN-TIMES MEDIA

Nine-year-old Jayda Green of Grayslake visits with Santa Claus. | CHRIS CASHMAN/FOR SUN-TIMES MEDIA

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About Mary’s Mission

Mary’s Mission & Shelter Care, 642 S. Martin Luther King Jr. Ave., Waukegan, provides transitional housing for men and women. The mission offers addiction-recovery meetings, skills training and church services. For more information, call (847) 623-2136.

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Updated: January 24, 2014 6:21AM

Hundreds of toys and dozens of frozen turkeys were piled on tables Saturday at the Lake County Jail in downtown Waukegan.

The annual event was the first stop on Dr. Mary Lacey’s three-day holiday giving program.

“We’ve got it going on,” said Lacey, 75, founder and longtime operator of Mary’s Mission, a transitional housing shelter on the southeast side of Waukegan.

Some of the recipients of toys and turkeys were related to jail inmates, but no one was turned away on this giving day.

“Someone called me last night and asked me why I was going to the jail to give out toys and gifts,” Lacey said. “It is because we’re supposed to look for those who are really in need.

“We want you to know that we love you, we love your relatives that are incarcerated,” Lacey said. “It could be us, it could be me, it could be you. We think of these families.”

Many of the toys came from the U.S. Marine Corps’ Toys for Tots program. Turkey donors included elected officials from Waukegan and North Chicago, and Lake County State’s Attorney Michael Nerheim.

“The whole idea is the families come out, the kids get a toy and the parent gets a turkey,” Nerheim said. “It’s not their fault their loved one’s in jail. It’s a tough time of year, so we’re trying to make it as easy as possible for these folks when they’re coming in.”

More toy giveaways were planned Sunday and Monday at Mary’s Mission, 642 S. Martin Luther King Jr. Ave., Waukegan.

Lacey said she expects to distribute about 10,000 toys this holiday season.

“I’m here to serve the people who are really in need,” said Lacey, who has been battling health issues recently.

“When I was in the hospital, all I dreamed about was doing what I’m doing today. I thank God that I’m here.”

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