The Christmas party is on.
Tomorrow's annual event to provide toys to needy children from Camden and other South Jersey communities was on the verge of being postponed by the Camden Rescue Mission this week.
On Wednesday, at least 6,000 boys and girls had registered for gifts, but only a couple of thousand items had been collected.
The mission's pastor, the Rev. Al Stewart, was praying for a miracle. And yesterday he got it.
After word spread through The Inquirer and other media, phone calls, and personal visits, toys flooded in by the hundreds.
He hasn't reached his goal, Stewart said, but drop-off points were overloaded. One woman donated 300 toys, and another offered 250 stuffed animals. By late yesterday, his supply of 2,500 gifts had grown to 4,000.
Two South Jersey art collectors have offered to donate half the proceeds from the sale of African American art valued at $40,000 that will be displayed through Dec. 31 at the mission, at 1634 Broadway in South Camden.
"We're absolutely well on the road to the miracle. I can see it in view," Stewart said. "We're going to come up with the toys. There's too much momentum now."
Helping the mission and making sure the children get toys are goals of Charles Cook, chief executive officer of the African American Fine Art Society, headquartered at his home in Sicklerville, and Mahir Atak, owner of Golden Fox Art Wholesale L.L.C., a home business in Williamstown.
"I enjoy what Rev. Stewart does for the community," said Cook, an art instructor for 30 years who teaches at Winslow High School and the private Capital Academy. "We have some exciting pieces from the African American art world.
"We have oils, pastels, acrylics, and sculpture. One piece is worth $25,000 and will be offered at the starting price of $7,000."
An auction date will be set soon, Atak said. "I want to help the children," he said. "The pastor is doing a nice job. I'm really impressed."
As the toys flowed in yesterday, Stewart was increasingly optimistic.
"I have a good feeling now," he said. "It's like that James Brown song: 'I feel good.' . . . It looks like we have twice as many toys as we had last night.
"If I had the money, I'd go out and buy a red suit."