NEW ROCHELLE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — A toy store in New Rochelle found a way to survive the pandemic by inspiring customers to help their neighbors.

Now, there’s something new on the shelves: a prestigious business award from the state.

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Toy stores are happy places. But a year ago, the owner of TP Toys was, “Terrified!”

Kamesha Salmon’s store was in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s infamous New Rochelle “containment area,” which The Daily News called “New Roch-Hell.”

“I didn’t think we were gonna last,” Salmon told CBS2’s Tony Aiello. “We’re a small business. So, to be standing here now, I’m honored, and the fact that we were able to give back during a difficult time means even more to me.”

Salmon has a reputation for generous donations and community initiatives. She spearheaded an effort to provide educational toys and accessories to families hit hard by the pandemic.

“When the pandemic happened, this wonderful small business owner, instead of worrying about herself and her own income, wondered what she could do to step up for the community,” said City Councilmember Yadira Ramos-Herbert.

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Generous customers contributed online, allowing Salmon to deliver bags to almost 600 happy children.

“I find that people’s willingness to give is always there. They just need an outlet, and we provide that outlet to them,” Salmon said. “I’m grateful that they answered the call every time we called.”

On Friday, State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins honored Salmon with the 2021 Empire Award.

“She saw a problem and she used her ingenuity to really create a solution,” said Stewart-Cousins.

“I do it because I want a better community for my children,” said Salmon.

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When it comes to giving back, this toy store owner isn’t playing around.

Tony Aiello