TAMPICO, Ill. — A woman in Whiteside County is taking the struggles of many families into her own hands for the holiday season.
Denise Brooks, pay it forward nominee, lives in the small village of Tampico where she's known as a person anyone can turn to for help.
"It's been fun," Denise said. "It's been like Santa's workshop here."
The holiday season is a special time of the year for Denise as she runs Toys for Tampico.
"It helps my kids out," one parent said. "They are very happy with what they get."
Toys for Tampico was started four years ago to support Tampico children in need of Christmas gifts.
"I like to see kids happy," Denise said.
She took on wrapping more than 300 gifts for children Christmas 2021.
"Denise just has the biggest heart," said Pay it Forward nominator Mary Jonorberg.
"I'd wrap 400, because they are worthy of gifts," Denise said.
Around 30 kids received presents from the program this year.
"We're working side-by-side," Mary said. "She's just wonderful."
"It's just me," Denise said. "I love kids."
The program has seen more community groups and organizations pitching in to support the cause.
"She's real nice and sensitive," Duane Thompson with Tampico Lion's Club said.
"She helps with anything that anybody needs in this town," Mary said.
"It's just a lot of joy," Denise said.
Denise has also come out-of-pocket to provide for the children.
"Mary, thank you for nominating Denise for the pay it forward award," Sarah-Beth Floyd said to Mary. "At Ascentra Credit Union, we believe in listening, caring and doing what's right, and Denise's work in the community truly exemplifies those principles. That's why I'm happy to present you with $300, so that you may pay it forward to Denise."
"I nominated you and I'd like to give you this $300 from WQAD and Ascentra Credit Union," Mary said to Denise.
"Thank you," Denise said. "I couldn't do anything without my angels and she's one of them and so is my husband. And I'm crying because, oh my goodness. I love people and I'd do anything I can in the condition I'm in."
Denise is a cancer survivor who now suffers from lymphedema. She has not let life's challenges stop her from pouring out her heart.
If you know someone you'd like to nominate for the Pay It Forward Award, click here.