UPDATED 12/24/10 11:08 a.m.

CHICAGO (WBBM) — The head of a Far South Side church missed the deadline for Toys for Tots.

But as WBBM Newsradio 780’s Nancy Harty reports, needy kids will get Christmas presents Friday afternoon.

LISTEN: Newsradio 780’s Nancy Harty Reports

Pastor Virgil Jones says the Sanctuary Family Worship Center, 711 W. 120th St., has been participating in Toys for Tots for 16 years. But he didn’t know the deadline had moved up until it was too late.

After the news media ran a story, donations started pouring in. Jones says the church received about 400 toys.

“Chicago is the greatest city ever, and I think we have some of the greatest people that care about children, and I loved that,” the Rev. Jones said.

Has Jones marked his calendar for next year’s Toys for Tots deadline?

“I don’t know what the deadline is for next year,” he said.

Jones says based on the generosity he saw this year, he has decided the church and its Mother Jones Food Pantry will start their own toy drive to give to the less fortunate next year.

Jones said he signed up for Toys for Tots after hearing about a 12-year-old boy who hanged himself on Christmas Eve, rather than be taunted by classmates for not getting presents.

“That really made an impression on me, and that just stuck with me that a child – I couldn’t imagine a child waking up on Christmas morning and having nothing under their tree,” Jones said. “It happened to me once and I knew how that felt.”

And three years ago, Chicagoans’ generosity also helped Sanctuary Family Worship Center rescue Christmas for hundreds of children.

In December 2007, someone broke in and stole hundreds of toys that were set aside for a Christmas giveaway. But as CBS 2’s Derrick Blakley reported at the time, media coverage triggered an avalanche of generosity and thousands of toys came to the church from the city, the suburbs and even out-of-state sources.

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