LIMA — The Salvation Army in Lima has been inundated with donations for the Toys for Tots campaign this holiday season.
“Allen County is such a giving community,” said Tom Vernon, operations coordinator of the Salvation Army.
The gymnasium and other rooms of the building were filled with piles of toys marked for needy families. Families who applied for the program will begin picking up the toys next week.
“The heartwarming thing is when you’re at these collection boxes,” Vernon said. “When families went by and kids, the young children, wanted to make sure Mom and Dad put a toy in the box. To see the expression on these young children is really amazing.”
About 1,700 needy children in Allen County received toys from the program last year. Vernon estimated about 2,500 children will receive toys this year. There are 135 organizations, businesses, schools and churches who’ve participated in collecting the toys.
One of those businesses is the Lima Auto Mall. It put out the Toys for Tots boxes as it does every year, but decided to contribute a little extra this time. The boxes were a little empty, so Business Manager Sue Peyton thought to fill some of the boxes using surplus money from the employee account. The account is used for various purposes, such as getting employees Christmas gifts.
“She kept walking by [the Toys for Tots boxes] and she said, ‘I can’t believe these aren’t full,’” said Rodger McClain, vice president at the Lima Auto Mall.
She went out and filled several boxes with toys to donate using the extra account funds.
“Just trying to help the spirit of Christmas at Christmastime because some kids don’t get anything,” McClain said. “It’s more of the gift-giving that’s a gift.”
The boxes at Lima Auto Mall were delivered to the Salvation Army on Wednesday morning.
National Honor Society members at Elida High School have been hard at work collecting toys for the program, too. As of Wednesday, they’ve collected about 175 toys. Only 115 were collected last year.
“We gave an incentive. If the students brought in a toy, they’d be entered into a drawing,” said Shelly Steinke, National Honor Society adviser at the high school. “We’re going to give out $25 gift cards. … The biggest prize is a $50 gas card.”
Their boxes will be taken to the Salvation Army on Thursday.
Vernon has not only been pleased with the quantity of toys from the community, but also the quality. In the past, a lot of stocking stuffers worth a few dollars were given out.
It’s not too late to donate, for those who are interested. Toys can be dropped off at the Salvation Army office, 614 E. Market St., for the rest of the week.