Holiday gifts sought for abused, neglected kidsWritten by Joel Sensenig | Managing Editor | firstname.lastname@example.org
As Black Friday approaches, the holiday shopping season is getting serious.
But a local agency hopes shoppers also give serious thought to helping out Northwest Ohio youth who may not have so many presents under the tree.
Lucas County Children Services (LCCS) is in the midst of its eighth annual Holiday Gift Drive, which will provide presents for 2,500 children who are victims of abuse and neglect. The drive benefits children living in foster homes and those living with relatives while their parents receive LCCS services as well as children still living at home with parents in the LCCS system.
“They’re facing more than one adverse factor in their life,” said Clare Armbruster, president of Friends of LCCS, a nonprofit organization that supports LCCS. “We like to think if they get a few presents, they feel like at least someone cares about them and makes their holidays a little brighter.”
Friends of LCCS volunteers are responsible for collecting new, unwrapped toys dropped off in boxes stationed at 52 businesses throughout the Toledo area. They will also help wrap the thousands of gifts.
Those unsure of what to buy a child should remember four things, Armbruster said: Disney’s “Frozen” toys, Legos, action figures and gift cards, the last being the most desired gifts for teenagers.
“We’re finding there will be a huge demand for ‘Frozen’ merchandise this year,” she said. “We’ve even been going out trying to buy some of it already because it’s really been disappearing. If someone is standing around the store with no idea what to buy … I’d recommend that.”
The drive received a major boost recently when Trans-Siberian Orchestra donated $11,023 to the holiday campaign. The band donated $1 from each ticket sold during their recent two-show appearance at the Huntington Center to the gift drive.
“It was a huge surprise to be selected because there are a lot of children’s charities, but I think it was a natural tie-in because their show is all about Christmas and this money was designated for the gift drive,” Armbruster said.
Even with the large cash donation, Friends of LCCS still has plenty of work to do, with thousands of children to provide presents for.
Students at St. Patrick of Heatherdowns have already been helping out with the drive, gathering toys and gift-card donations.
Through Dec. 17, toys can be dropped off in marked boxes at the LCCS offices, 705 Adams St., or at any of the following businesses: Allshred Services, 3940 Technology Drive, Maumee; Barnes & Noble, 4940 Monroe St. (books only); Brondes Ford, 5545 Secor Road and 1511 S. Reynolds Road, Maumee; The Town Center at Levis Commons (selected retailers); all Toledo-area Burger King locations; all Toledo-area Family Video locations; all Lucas County Kroger stores; Toledo Auto Care, 4544 Monroe St.; Woodcraft, 5311 Airport Hwy.; and all Yark Automotive locations.
Other community partners are Toledo Free Press, WTOL-11, Bennett Management Corp. and 101.5 The River.
“We are a community-oriented company, and to be able to be a part of a successful program such as the [LCCS gift drive] is worth more than words can express,” said Beverly Benner, vice president of administration and marketing for Bennett Management, which owns and operates all Burger King restaurants in the Toledo area.
“We invite the public to stop by any local BK and to drop off a toy or two,” Benner said. “Our Burger King restaurants will also be accepting monetary donations from the day after Thanksgiving through Sunday, Dec. 14.”
WTOL-11 news anchor Emilie Voss said it’s gratifying to watch the community step up and support the drive each year.
“These kids in our community deserve to have a special Christmas,” Voss said. “For me, I love knowing these kids are going back to school and can talk about their new toys just like their friends.”
Voss’ co-anchor Jerry Anderson agreed.
“I love that this toy drive puts smiles on the faces of kids who may not have had a lot of reason to smile in their young lives,” Anderson said. “Yet, while I know that happens, I don’t get to see it. What I do get to see is the generosity of all of those folks who drop off toys.”
“People are so kind,” Anderson said. “They don’t make a big deal about it. They often just quietly drop in their toy and would simply stroll away were it not for our TV crew stopping them to say ‘Thanks.’ It does my heart good.”
Bari Soash, an executive producer at WTOL-11, said the station will push for donations on several days throughout the drive, including a Black Friday event at Franklin Park Mall, where shoppers can drop off toys or cash donations. WTOL-11 will broadcast live from the parking lot in front of Forever 21. The station will also broadcast live and collect for the drive from several Kroger locations Dec. 12.
“It’s a great thing that everyone can do in this community,” Soash said. “You’re already out shopping for your loved ones, and picking up one extra gift can really make a local child’s Christmas. It’s something great that we’re happy to be a part of.”
Kellie Holeman-Szenderski, regional market manager at iHeartMedia, said 101.5 The River has been involved with the drive for a number of years.
“As Toledo’s Christmas music station, we know our audience is very giving and we believe strongly in giving back to the community,” Holeman-Szenderski said. “All of the money and toys raised help give the many needy children of Lucas County something to smile about during the holiday season.”
She said Mary Beth Zolik and Rick Woodell of 101.5 The River will broadcast live from the Burger King location at 4870 Monroe St. near Franklin Park Mall from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Dec. 13 to raise money and collect toys for the drive. Allshred Services of Maumee will also be at that location during that time, shredding up to five boxes or bags of documents for those who make a donation.
“We support the LCCS Toy Drive every year because it allows us to make a positive impression on youth,” Woodell said. “Some of these kids might otherwise have a negative or defeated attitude about their future. This one gesture is proof that people do care and that Christmas, and what it stands for, is real.”
Those who would like to help out by making an instant donation can text BESTGIFT to 41911. They will then be prompted to select either a $5, $10 or $50 donation to the drive.
Armbruster hopes people find it in their hearts to include children in LCCS services in their gift-giving habits.
“These kids have had a really rough life so far,” she said. “I realize it’s just presents, but it’s a way we can show we care and that they’re not forgotten.”
Tags: Beverly Benner, Clare Armbruster, Emilie Voss, Friends of Lucas County Children Services, Gift Drive, Jerry Anderson, Kellie Holeman-Szenderski, Lucas County Children Services, Mary Beth Zolik, Rick Woodell, slider, Toy Drive