Gospel artist Yolanda Adams brought her nationally syndicated radio show to the parking lot of the Lowes Home Improvement store in Largo Friday. Recording artists and  politicians joined educators and radio personalities for an early morning tent crusade to collect toys for needy children at Christmas.

“Those of us who are blessed, we owe it to our fellow citizens and folks who we are around to do something special for them,” Adams said in an interview following the local airing of the Yolanda Adams Morning Show. She and her on-air side kicks — comedian Marcus D. Wiley and Rev. Anthony Valary a.k.a. AV — held court inside of a big white revival tent with hundreds, as people dropped off toy donations.

The event, broadcasted on Praise 104.1 and across the Radio One network, was held in partnership with Lowes, the United States Marines Toys For Tots program, Project Giveback, Post 66 of the American Legion in Bowie and the Prince George’s County Department of Social Services.

Flanked by an army of store workers, David Burris, manager of the Largo Lowes, said “This is an amazing event, which just surpassed 3,600 toys raised, the record (for a Lowes store) is 2,000 in Atlanta and we just surpassed that. To take care of our children during the holidays is just awesome.”

Yolanda Adams leads a toy collection in Largo, Md. on Dec. 14, 2012. (Hamil Harris/The Washington Post)

Dawn Stem, coordinator of the Toys for Tots effort in Prince George’s and Anne Arundel County, said last year 100,000 toys were handed out to 27,000 kids in the two counties, and this year the hope is to reach about 25,000 children. “We have 11 U-Hauls on the road and 700 drops off sites in two counties,” Stem said.

Ransom Miller, who founded  Project Giveback 18 years ago, said things are critical this year because an increased number of people who used to donate items are in need themselves. “We have seen situations where people who used to donate and give us checks every year find themselves in need because they have lost their jobs,” Miller said.

Miller, whose organization distributed Thanksgiving food and other items to more than 1,100 families last month, plans to give a range of items over the next week to families across the District, Maryland and Virginia.

Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Md.) and Prince George’s County Community College President Charlene Dukes also took to the microphone during the event, and Edwards used the moment to explain the implications of a potential “fiscal cliff” if Congress and the White House don’t reach an agreement by the end of the year.

But for the hundreds present at Lowes, the highlight of the morning was listening to award-winning gospel artist Earnest Pugh, who has gone from being a local choir director to chart-topping gospel artist. Pugh used the occasion to sing some of his top songs and debut a Christmas album entitled “Christmas with Earnest Pugh and Friends.”

Radio One Program manager Ron Thompson said the event was very important to the station as well as to those who listen to the show on Praise 104.1 because, “It is important for us to remain connected to the community,” and 104.1 afternoon host Cheryl Jackson said it says a lot that so many people came for the event so early in the morning.

One of the key reasons why the Yolanda Adams morning show is very popular is because of the efforts of AV, who gives the daily “Points of Power,” and Wiley and his fictional character, Bishop Secular, who always concludes his funny monologues with “It’s alright to be secular for two minutes.”

“When I first started doing the morning show I kind of thought it was really about me. I am not going to lie, but then I started talking to people who say this is the only laugh they get all day whether they come to a hellish home or they go to a hellish job. I realized that it was really bigger than me,” Wiley said.

“Christmas is one of my favorite of the year it is about giving to the less fortunate,” Pugh said. “The Bible tells us not to forget about the orphans and the people who are less fortunate.”

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