CHICAGO (CBS) — A Chicago actress and her foundation brought 3,000 toys, food, and countless smiles to the West Garfield Park neighborhood for the holidays Wednesday.

As CBS 2’s Marissa Parra reported, people waited for more than two hours in their cars for the giveaway, and there were lines that stretched over 15 blocks – dramatically underscoring the need.

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As everyone watched out, there was no reason to cry, nor to pout – quite the contrary, and we’re telling you why. Two days before Christmas, Santa Claus came to down on the West Side just a little early. There were toys of all shapes, sizes, and colors for boys and girls and men and women of all ages.

“We’re giving away toys, beauty products, food, coats, shoes!” said actress and philanthropist Ta’Rhonda Jones. “And we’re not just giving back to the kids. We’re giving back to the adults as well.”

Jones could easily fit the part as one of Santa’s elves. She is one of the brains behind the whole operation.

And this year, Santa’s got his work cut out for him.

“I want some baby dolls,” a youngster said.

“I hope my cat gets the medical bills he needs to survive,” another visitor said.

“Anything we can get!” a man said.

The lines of people on foot and by car were impossible to count.

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“Thousands of people here today,” said Afrika Porter of Afrika Melanie Public Relations.

“It’s like a thousand cars,” said Melanie Brown of the same organization. “Ain’t no telling now how many cars there are.”

“We need a little help!” Jones added. “Santa is struggling today!”

And a lot of those cars weren’t even in line for toys. Some were just hoping for a box of food.

It was all a glimpse at 2020’s toll as food pantries across Chicago have seen double the need since the pandemic started.

“Especially now with COVID, I know a lot of folks losing their jobs. They’re not able to do Christmas like they normally would,” Jones said, “so that’s what we’re here for, and that’s what we’re trying to do – make sure people have a great Christmas this year.”

As Jones and her team like to say, it takes a village.

To learn more about Jones’ Black Village Foundation and ways you can help out with future events, click here.

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