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Pa. volunteers on a mission

December 24, 1998

toy missionBy DON AINES / Staff Writer, Chambersburg

photo: RICHARD T. MEAGHER / staff photographer




CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - With dozens of people cleaning, fixing and packaging toys last week, the Toy Mission really did look like Santa's workshop.

Instead of elves, scores of senior citizens hustled through stacks of games, dolls and toys at 204 Lincoln Way East. Falling Spring Chapter 2840 of the AARP helps sponsor the mission.

The Toy Mission began in 1947 when Chambersburg grocer Lawrence Nessel started repairing toys for poor children. Last year, the nonprofit corporation delivered toys to more than 1,100 children in 430 families, Co-Director John W. Stamm, a retired pastor, said.

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"We'll be well over 300, probably about 350," his wife, Joanne Stamm, said last week as volunteers taped up gift box No. 261 for an area family.

At one table, women were scrubbing down toys with soap and water. "All of the toys that aren't brand new are scrubbed and processed," Joanne said.

Once cleaned, they are inspected to make sure they still work. If not, a group of talented seniors goes to work on them, but not all the donations are worth the effort.

"Some of it is in such (bad) condition, you take one look at it and can it," said Earl Schroth of Chambersburg. Nearby, Erdman Bowders of Chambersburg, a volunteer for 10 years, was taking apart a toy plane to see if it could be salvaged.

George Kaslow is the expert on battery covers, which are missing from many donated toys. Last week he was sifting through three boxes of discarded battery covers, picking one about the right size for a game or toy and then trimming it to fit.

"I have two children on my list and I have to go through here and see if we have the toys they asked for," volunteer Ruth Maginsky said as she pushed a shopping cart through aisles of toys. As closely as possible, the volunteers try to fulfill the wish lists of the children.

Bicycle helmets, batteries and other items that are not normally donated have to be bought, according to Dick Bowers, co-director of the mission. He said the mission spent about $6,400 last year to buy toys and accessories.

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