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  • Toys for Tots drive nears conclusion

    The 19th annual Marine Toys for Tots drive in Chautauqua County is entering its final days, and organizers are seeking the community’s help in making this year’s campaign a success.

    Specifically, volunteers are needed to bag toys any time between 8:00 and noon Saturday, December 14, at Allied Alarm Services, 2020 Allen Street Extension in Falconer. This is an opportunity for people to play Santa by selecting toys for some of the more than 3,000 local children who have been registered to receive toys this holiday season, then place the toys into bags in preparation for distribution to families.

    Staff and self-advocates from The Resource Center’s Community Pre-Vocational Program sort toys in Dunkirk. Pictured are, from left, Jason Kurgan, Community Coaches Beth Ray and Jessica Sayers, Tommy Proper, and Amy Ippolito.

    “Saturday is the big bagging day at Toys for Tots,” said Heather C. Brown, assistant executive director at The Resource Center. She has been one of the lead coordinators of the local Toys for Tots drive since it started in 2001. “If you are able to stop down, please do so. It’s a great way for families and friends to get into the Christmas spirit and support those less fortunate in our community.”

    There will be additional opportunities to volunteer from 9:00 to noon Sunday in Dunkirk; 9:00 to noon Monday in Jamestown and Dunkirk; and noon to 4:00 Thursday in Dunkirk. For more information about Toys for Tots or to sign up to volunteer, phone 661-1042 or 661-1433.

    What began as a small project to help nine families back in 2000 has now grown into an effort that annually helps about 1,000 local families and more than 3,200 children who otherwise might go without on Christmas, as part of The Resource Center’s Marine Toys for Tots program.

    “It’s amazing that we have been doing this for 19 years,” said Heather.

    And the numbers of those in need keep growing year after year and are expected to climb again this season.

    “We believe that there continues to be so many people living in poverty and just not able to make ends meet for anything extra at the holidays,” she said.

    To meet the growing need, The Resource Center has partnered with more groups, schools and organizations to identify new families in need that haven’t reached out for help in the past.

    “We see so many people who work multiple jobs just to pay the day-to-day bills and just are in need of a little boost at Christmas to be sure their children have something to open on Christmas Day,” Heather said.

    Applications were accepted online through December 8. Having families apply online was one of the major changes made to the program last year.

    “That saves the family from having to apply in person and then make a second trip for pickup. They just apply online, and we verify all of the details when they come to pick up their toys a few days before Christmas,” said Heather.

    With thousands of toys being donated, Toys for Tots organizers were grateful that again this year, Allied Alarm Services offered the use of its warehouse to store the toys.

    “It is a gift for us to play a small part in the Chautauqua County Toys for Tots organization again this year,’ said Mike Roberts, Allied Alarm’s president. “The generosity and outpouring of giving we see from so many people in our community is heartwarming and inspires us to give back so that more children can receive the love, joy, peace, promise, and hope this season brings. We are honored to be part of the amazing people who put this together. To put a smile on over 3,000 children’s faces is one the real joys of the Christmas season.”

    Support from the local business community grew this year, with more than 130 local businesses placing collection boxes at their locations. Many businesses and groups hosted events to support Toys for Tots as well.

    In addition to the donation boxes, Toys for Tots is also accepting monetary donations that can be mailed to TRC’s administrative offices at 200 Dunham Avenue in Jamestown.

    “We are looking forward to the busy shopping season and the support of our generous community again this year,” said Patrick Smeraldo, another lead Toys for Tots coordinator who works as an independent service coordinator for the Chautauqua Connections Children’s Coalition.

    The generosity of the community was out in full force at the annual Jamestown Christmas Parade and Holiday Celebration on December 6, put on by the Jamestown Renaissance Corporation. People were asked to bring toys to the parade and place them on our Toys for Tots float. Those who did so received a coupon for a free medium coffee or hot chocolate from Tim Hortons.

    Other partners that helped TRC and the Chautauqua Connections Children’s Coalition with designing the float (pictured below) and collecting toys during the parade included the Jamestown Police Department, the Jamestown Fire Department, Lake Shore Paving, and the Jamestown High School cross-country team.

    200 Dunham Avenue, Jamestown, NY, 14701