Letter: SOMSD Annual Holiday Toy Drive Helps Families in Need

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To the Editor,

We all know how generous the South Orange Maplewood Community is, especially when it comes to making life easier for one of our own neighbors. Never is that spirit more evident than at the holidays when the South Orange Maplewood School District Parenting Center runs its annual Toy Drive.

Every year the Toy Drive provides holiday gifts for children of families in need in our school district. These children are identified under federal guidelines as living in poverty and are eligible for free or reduced price lunch in the schools. Last year, the toy drive benefited 157 families including 478 children.

One of our recipients last year was a single parent of four school-age children who had just been laid off. The parent wrote us to say “thank you for the gifts, and more thanks because the greatest thing you gave is all the joy you brought me.  People will forget what you said, will forget what you did. But I will never forget how you made me feel. Thank you for remembering me.”

All cash contributions are used to purchase books and gifts for children from infancy through age 17; no donations are used to cover administrative costs. The Toy Drive also receives donated items from many generous local businesses. These gifts are provided to parents who then wrap the items themselves and give them to their children during the holidays.

Of course, this is a community effort. This year’s co-chairs, Patricia Bell, Abby Cotler, Lorraine Gibbons and Dana Longstreet, are long-time local residents. Maplewood and South Orange businesses have generously supported the toy drive for years.  And, every year, a committee of Columbia High School students runs the drive at the high school, collects donations in the community, helps to shop for gifts, and gathers in mid-December with adult volunteers to organize and deliver gifts to each family.

Please consider a tax-deductible donation payable to the SOMSD Parenting Center Toy Drive.  Send your donation to The Parenting Center, SOMSD BOE, 525 Academy Street, Maplewood, NJ 07040 no later December 1, 2016.

Beginning November 15, 2016 and continuing through December 11, you can also donate new, unwrapped gifts in Toy Drive boxes at:

  • the Maplewood Fire Station on Dunnell Road;
  • Gleasons Cleaners on Parker Avenue;
  • Keller Williams Realtors, Shenanigans, Palmers Sweetery and No.165 in downtown Maplewood;
  • Seton Hall University (DOVE, 108 Boyland Hall)
  • Spark House Toys, 9 Village Plaza, South Orange
  • South Mountain Yoga, 18 S Orange Ave #2, South Orange
  • The UPS Store on South Orange Avenue.

Al public schools and Sharey Tefilo Preschool, Prospect Co-op, Morrow Preschool, Bnai Israel Preschool (160 Millburn Avenue, Millburn) and the South Mountain YMCA Child Care Center also have boxes.

When purchasing gifts, please think about what your own children would like – that’s what our recipients would like too!

On behalf of the SOMSD Parenting Center, we offer our heart-felt thanks for your generosity. Your gifts will provide the holiday joy this year that our district’s most vulnerable families might not otherwise have. If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact the Toy Drive at 973-762-5600, ext. 1850.

Happy Holidays!

Patricia Bell, Abby Cotler, Lorraine Gibbons and Dana Longstreet
Co-Chairs, SOMSD Parenting Center Toy Drive

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