Toys for Toronto program focus for chamber meeting

TORONTO – Toys for Toronto, an organization that collects slightly used toys and donations to ensure every child in the Gem City has something under the tree Christmas morning, was discussed during the Thursday Toronto Ohio Chamber of Commerce luncheon meeting at the North River Avenue Christian Church.

Lu Ellyn Dallas, program coordinator, told members the organization began after the Toronto American Legion Post 86’s program became too much for their membership to continue.

“In the past it was called Toys for Tots, but that’s a (U.S.) Marine program,” said Dallas, adding the current program began eight years ago. “Josh Elliott, (pastor of the Riverview United Methodist Church), and I approached the Legion to make the program more community based.”

The idea was to reach more families in need, raise more funds and solicit more donations and volunteers for the program to grow for Toronto-area children, Dallas continued. She added the program obtains names of families and children in need from the Toronto Unit of the Salvation Army, Toronto City Schools, the American Legion and churches.

“This year we have 316 children signed up, and it changes every day,” Dallas said, adding the program has grown substantially in the past year. “Last year we had 230 children who had a wonderful Christmas. The children come from needy families. There’s an unbelievable amount of need out there.

“It takes us up to three days to put out all the toys (stored at the Legion) into the Legion hall,” Dallas continued, adding volunteers sort the toys from Dec. 17-19, and families come pick out toys from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Dec. 20.

Dallas said the toys are put on separate tables for age groups ranging from newborns to age 13.

“The families then come in and pick up their toys for their children,” Dallas said, adding the families come in at 10-minute intervals.

Dallas also said some families don’t have vehicles, and the program will transport those without vehicles home with the toys.

“When they leave (the Legion hall) they will have a big bag of toys,” said Dallas. “(Jefferson County Sheriff) Fred Abdalla gives us a lot of toys. We also give away bicycles on a lottery system. There’s only one bicycle to a family. Every toy that needs a battery will have one. We also donate wrapping paper and Christmas bags.”

Dallas said the organization uses student-volunteers from the city schools to help with sorting toys, but “we can use all the volunteers we can get.” She added donations come from different churches, organizations, businesses and private donations. During the meeting, the chamber donated a check for $500 to the program, while the Goucher Hotel donated $100 and Anderson-Campbell Insurance donated $150 during the meeting. Several chamber members also donated wrapping paper and other gift-related items.

Those willing to volunteer should call Dallas at (740) 537-221. Those wishing to donate should send a check payable to Toys 4 Children and send it to the Riverview United Methodist Church, P.O. Box 348, Toronto, OH 43964.

“It’s a need,” said Dallas. “It’s a ministry. There’s no community like Toronto that helps its own.”

In other business:

Bill Lucas, chamber president, said the chamber-sponsored light up night was a success, with $1,750 raised toward the Toronto Unit of the Salvation Army’s Home Heating Assistance Program through the sale of memorial luminaria.

“It was a tremendous event,” said Lucas, who thanked the Toronto First Presbyterian Church for hosting the event due to inclement weather. “That was just short of what we raised last year.”

Lucas also thanked Amanda Coburn, chamber secretary, and Karen Mellott for creating the luminaria.