Behind-the-scenes elves make Toys for Tots possible
NEWTOWN - Too many things are taken for granted. That, of course, is not news. What I’ve learned since just before Halloween is one of the things that people don’t give much of a thought to is Toys for Tots.
Don’t get me wrong. I know there are many people out there who drop new toys, paid for with their own money, into a Toys for Tots collection box, which are dotted all over Lower Bucks County and, for that matter, the country. In these economic times, anyone who spends their own money on a present for someone they’ve never met or seen is impressive.
What I’m getting at is that once that toy is left in the box, very few – if any – people give a second thought about where it’s going to end up or how it’s going to get there.
In October, I spent some time talking with hevin Miller, Bucks County Toys for Tots coordinator. At the time, there was a very real worry that Lower Bucks County would not have a Toys for Tots presence in Bucks County. He was short on volunteers and had no warehouse space to store the donated toys.
I followed Miller’s story from that point. I wrote about David and deri Platt, who own the Newtown Swim Club and volunteered their barn to house all the games, bikes, dolls and other toys that will now appear, wrapped, under a Christmas tree this year.
I’ve donated my fair share of toys to the national campaign, but never once considered the steps in between my donation and some young boy’s or girl’s opening the gift. The story was new to me – not to Miller or his small army of volunteers. I had never even thought of the need to store everything for up to a month before delivery. Sure, it makes sense – what’s Milller going to do, keep thousands of toys in the trunk of his car?
I decided that for me to understand – to really understand – what Miller and his volunteers do, I’d have to join them. I knew it would feel good to donate some time and I also knew it would provide me a story for the newspaper, so in a way my volunteering was a bit self-serving. Not so for the 20 or so people helping out at the swim club Dec. 15.
I arrived at 10 a.m. looking for something to do. It didn’t take long for a woman named Mara to hand me a purple sticky note that read simply, “dirls, 6-T: 43, 43, 43.” It wasn’t some sort of code, rather a quick way to instruct me that I was to sort WKrougK WKH WKousDnGs oI Woys DnG finG onHs appropriate for 6- and T-year-old girls. I then had to pack boxes with 43 toys each for delivery to a place unknown to me. Mara knew exactly where they were going, though.
What I was doing was basically the last task before the toys left the swim club. Prior to my arrival, Miller and all his helpers had spent weeks collecting the toys, unloading them into the barn, separating them by gender and age, taking orders for sSHcLfic orgDnLzDWLons DnG fiOOLng EoxHs Wo haul away.
According to physics.com, which graciously gives Santa 48 hours to complete GHOLvHry WKDnNs Wo WKH HDrWK’s WLPH zonHs, Santa would “have to deliver to around 10,000 homes every second in order to get the job done within those 48 hours.” Of course that’s physically ridiculous, but not as ridiculous as I once considered it after spending just two hours with these Toys for Tots volunteers.
By no PHDns Go , wDnW Wo PLnLPLzH WKosH who donated all the toys that have packed the swim club’s barn since November. :KDW , wDnW Wo Go Ls rHcognLzH wKDW goHs into a successful Toys for Tots campaign. It becomes a full time job for a bunch of people who already have one.
Most of the local donation boxes are now gone. Time is running short and deliveries have to be made. Chances are, most of you won’t think about Toys for Toys again until next year, when you generously purchase a toy, place it into a box and walk away, your charitable job done for the year. But when you do that, think about that as your cKDrLWDEOH MoE Ls finLsKHG, so PDny oWKHrs’ are just beginning.
It’s not 10,000 homes a second, but to these volunteers, it’s close.
From left, Toys for Tots volunteers Katie Irelan, 12, of Langhorn, Nicole Middleton, 11, of Yardley and Connor Yagecic, 11, of Bensalem move bikes inside the Newtown Swim Club’s barn.
From left, Newtown Swim Club owner David Platt and Toys for Tots volunteers Cathy Bondy and Geri Lewis organize toys at the swim club’s barn.