MIDDLETOWN, Ohio —  Pushing cartload after cartload out of Meijer, Lakeisha Thomas knew her work was cut out for her. Every brightly packaged doll, dinosaur and puzzle would soon be sorted, wrapped and left waiting for 200 Middletown kids hoping to see their Christmas dreams come true Saturday night.

What You Need To Know

  • Key Better Days Society will serve 200 kids through their 513 Blessing Tree

  • The nonprofit launched during the pandemic

  • Key Better Days also runs a mobile pantry

  • The pantry typically provides clothing, hygiene items, and other necessities

It’s a part of the 513 Blessings Tree program through Thomas’ Key Better Days Society, a Middletown-based nonprofit she launched to ensure her community had someone to turn to for anything they may need.

Key Better Days Society got its start in 2020 when Thomas saw her community suffering through the pandemic, so she gathered donations and purchased clothing, hygiene items and other supplies and set out to deliver.

Seeing the need wasn’t going away, Thomas got a trailer and created a mobile pantry.

The mobile pantry. (Spectrum News 1/Michelle Alfini)
The mobile pantry. (Spectrum News 1/Michelle Alfini)

“We typically work with other organizations that serve needy people and we pull up and we do our pop-up shops,” she said. “They come out and they kind of tell us what they need or want and we serve them through our window.

It started as a way to provide for community need, but when the holiday season rolled around in 2020, Thomas decided to try and wrap in a Christmas drive. Every year since it's only grown, she said.

“Not only because of our partnerships, but because of the need in the community for help,” she said.

(Spectrum News 1/Michelle Alfini)
(Spectrum News 1/Michelle Alfini)

For 2022, Thomas was looking to provide for 200 kids across the Middletown area, promising at least a few presents they can open at the Silver Leaf Lodge on Dec. 17. She said the response was overwhelming.

“We started getting requests starting the beginning of November and we had to pretty much end it really quickly,” she said.

In the weeks since, Thomas has been recruiting business partners to sponsor the program, volunteers to shop and wrap and relying on the Elks Lodge to help host and decorate.

“I’m excited to see the amount of kids and the smiles that are going to be on their faces,” Thomas said.

Along with the Christmas program, Thomas has also been working on a coat drive and continuing to make connections through her mobile pantry. With more in the community turning her way for help, she said she wants to be prepared and ready with plenty of resources to respond.

“I think in the next years to come this will be a really huge program and I look forward to working with the Elks Lodge, Silver Leaf Lodge as well as other community organizations,” she said.