Toy collection boxes throughout the school district are almost filled to the brim, but there’s still time to contribute to the South Orange-Maplewood School District Parenting Center Toy Drive, which continues through December 19.
Each year, the Parenting Center provides holiday gifts for children in the neediest families in the school district. The 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 benefitted more than 155 families and nearly 500 children. All donations are used to purchase gifts for children and none of the money donated is taken for administrative costs.
New UNWRAPPED gifts can be dropped off at 525 Academy Street or at donation boxes at any school in the district. Tax-deductible donations made out to “The SOMSD Parenting Center” can also be sent to 525 Academy Street, Maplewood NJ 07040.
In addition, the South Orange Elks are working with the Parenting Center this year to “provide an evening drop-off space for folks that can’t get gifts to 525 Academy or for whom the lodge is more convenient,” said Barbara Heisler, an Elks volunteer. Heisler said that the Elks hope to involve more people who aren’t linked to the school district by providing the non-school drop-off location:
- Bring a NEW unwrapped toy to the South Orange Elks Lodge any Monday, Thursday or Friday evenings after 7:30 p.m. through December 19. The South Orange Elks Club is located at 220 Prospect Street, South Orange; or
- Join the South Orange Elks for their annual Holiday Spaghetti Dinner on Friday, December 19, from 6 – 9 p.m. and bring your new unwrapped toy that evening. Enjoy salad, spaghetti, meatballs, coffee, tea and dessert. A special jolly visitor is expected to drop in. Adults $12; Children $6. Purchase dinner tickets in advance at the South Orange Elks Lodge, 220 Prospect Street, South Orange. For more information, call Darryl Haley at 862-213-6706.
According to Karen Weiland, Director of the Parenting Center, the toy drive is a volunteer effort run by members of our community. “The donated gifts are given to parents who, in turn, provide them to their children.” The Parenting Center uses monetary donations to purchase additional books and gifts. Gift are provided for children from infancy through age 17.
A major need every year is gifts appropriate for older children — tweens and teens. See the attached “wish list” for ideas.
Overseen by co-chairs Lorraine Caputo and Abby Cotler, volunteers gather at 525 Academy in early to mid-December and organize gifts to give to the identified families. “We make every attempt to individualize the gifts to the needs of the families,” wrote Weiland. “It is a joyous and heartwarming occasion as we know that the children who receive these gifts will be very surprised and grateful at holiday time.”
Gifts are tax-deductible. Make all checks payable to The SOMSD Parenting Center, 525 Academy Street, Maplewood NJ 07040. Contact the Parenting Center at 973-762-5600, ext. 1850 with any questions or to volunteer, or email Lorraine Caputo at Lorrainecaputo3@gmail.com.