ST. PETERSBURG – The Carter G. Woodson African American History Museum was overflowing with community members for their annual open house where everyone was asked to participate in this year’s toy drive called Bring Out the Dolls. Bring Out the Balls. Bring Out the Books.
And that they did. More than 1,000 toys were donated for underprivileged children.
Bring out the Dolls is the brainchild of Attorney Shannon Ligon, founder of Legacy Entertainment & Arts Foundation. After seeing Facebook posts of Ligon celebrating the success of the first toy drive in Orlando, museum Chair Terri Lipsey Scott approached her about partnering with the Woodson for area children and added gifts for boys also.
The concept for Bring Out the Dolls came when a 12-year-old girl Ligon was representing in Orlando was being bullied because of her natural hair. So Ligon and members of her foundation came up with an idea to help her young client find “self-esteem, encouragement and the support to understand that no matter what you look like or where you come from, we are all beautiful.”
“This is something that started four years ago and I would have never imaged that it would grow to this magnitude,” said Ligon. “What you guys are doing here helps so many families.”
Last year the toy drive yielded approximately 500 gifts, and this year has seen the amount double.
“It’s been extremely overwhelming to see the generosity from those in the community,” said Lipsey Scott.
The toys collected will be given to children whose parents are in prison, displaced families living in motels, some Jordan Park residents and other families who have been identified as in need.
The overage of gifts will be donated to the St. Petersburg Police Department for children who become victims of circumstances and are in need of comfort.
The Woodson Museum touts having more events than any other museum in town, and two more were added to the roster. They now offer piano lessons for the little ones.
Lipsey Scott said the young and talented Latreca Bonner approached her a few months ago wanting to teach piano lessons for free at the museum. Of course she immediately took her up on the offer, but then realized there wasn’t a piano in sight.
After taking to Facebook, seven individuals purchased enough keyboards to have three sessions of six students every Monday.
Since most students won’t have a chance to see a piano outside of the museum, Lipsey Scott wrote a grant to purchase keyboards for students to take home but was denied.
“I need you to know the power of the person to whom I pray,” said Lipsey Scott, explaining that a few emails down from the rejection email was Wells Fargo asking how they could help the museum.
“Right now we’ve been working with civic programs,” said Wells Fargo District Manager Rodney Wilson. “We have a team member network and our goal is to connect with the local community.”
The museum was able to give each household an electric keyboard for Christmas.
“We love you, and look forward to the greatness that will come out of you,” Lipsey Scott said to the excited children.
Coming next month, the museum will roll out a new book club for area youths. The goal of this new program is to teach the children their heritage, which is largely ignored in school.