Toy Mission readies for Christmas

October 07, 1997


Staff Writer, Chambersburg

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - It was too hot Monday afternoon for it to be the North Pole.

But just for a little while, childhood images of elves sitting at their benches surrounded by toys came to life thanks to volunteers in a Chambersburg workshop.

Some may believe it's too early to even think about Christmas. But the upcoming holiday - only 78 days away - has volunteers and organizers of the Chambersburg Toy Mission already planning, organizing and refurbishing toys that will be delivered to needy children in Franklin County and Shippensburg, Pa., on the Saturday before Christmas.

"It will be a frenzy here by early December," said project coordinator John Stamm. "Christmas is a couple days early this year, which already has some people in a panic."


With several workshops in the warehouse at 204 Lincoln Way West already piled high with toys, and donations expected to start coming in soon, the work force of 80 volunteers didn't waste any time getting started during its first work session Monday.

In the bicycle shop, workers were already dismantling the vehicles, cleaning them, replacing parts and putting them back together again before wheeling them into the storage room, where bikes of all sizes are suspended from the ceiling and stacked along the walls.

"They might go out with a few scratches, but they're in as good of mechanical order as any bike you'd buy in a store," Stamm said.

In the middle of the large room, with old toothbrushes and rags in hand and tubs of cleaning solution close by, a group of women gathered around a table to clean all of the toys that came in.

"His face was so dirty. I brushed his fur and washed his little hands and face," said Ruth Bowders, working on a stuffed toy monkey.

Hardly a stuffed animal gets by Elsie Overcash, a volunteer at the mission for 20 years.

"I stick them in the washing machine and they get beautiful. Then I hang them by the neck on the (clothes) line," Overcash said, adding that she's not sure what her neighbors must think.

Once the stuffed toys are clean, Overcash and Helen Greiner inspect them for holes, missing fur and stuffing and make the necessary repairs.

"His little foot was coming off," Greiner said, stitching up a stuffed pink pig.

The Chambersburg Toy Mission has delivered thousands of new and reconditioned toys, books and school supplies to children in Franklin County for more than 50 years. Last year, 1,150 children in 430 homes received toys, Stamm said.

"I like to help these kids at Christmas time and frankly, I like to be here with the girls," said Peg Lyons, cleaning a small plastic bulldozer.

"I just enjoy this," said Overcash. "I never had toys of my own. We lived during the Depression. I think it's important that kids have toys."

The Toy Mission is sponsored by the Falling Spring Chapter No. 2840 of the American Association of Retired Persons.

Anyone interested in donating toys can drop them off between noon and 4 p.m.every Tuesday and from 6 to 9 p.m. Wednesdays at the building at the intersection of Lincoln Way West and Franklin Street.

Cash donations can be made to Chambersburg Toy Mission, P.O. Box 137, Chambersburg, Pa. 17201.

Toy requests should contain a statement of need; name and address of parents making the request; names, ages and gender of children - up to 12 years of age - for whom the toys are needed; directions to the house where the toys are to be delivered; and a list of toys requested, limited to three gifts per child.

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