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Mont Alto volunteers keep season bright for kids

December 19, 2010|By JENNIFER FITCH |
  • Haley Kabler, 9, watches her 6-year-old brother, Cainan, open presents Sunday during the Mont Alto (Pa.) Fire Department's toy drive distribution.
Jennifer Fitch

MONT ALTO, Pa. — “Ho, ho, ho” rang out over the sounds of firetruck sirens Sunday as Mont Alto-area volunteers embarked on their annual toy drive distribution.
Santa Claus accompanied dozens of volunteers as they took toys, food and gift cards to families in need in the communities served by the Mont Alto and South Mountain fire departments. Santa prompted children to open one gift from the boxes carried into their homes.
Coordinator Robin Vaughn said she remembers one woman urging her children to open only one present, as they wouldn’t otherwise have any for Christmas morning.
“What keeps me coming back (as a volunteer) is going out on the route, pulling up and seeing the smiles on the kids’ faces,” Vaughn said.
Vaughn said she and her children were recipients of the toy drive 12 years ago, but her situation improved. She has volunteered for the past few years.
Fellow coordinator Penny Adolini said fire department officials have lost track of how many years the toy drive has been held. She estimated they’ve delivered donated toys for 12 to 15 years.
“We were able to add more toys this year through donations,” Adolini said, saying the drive benefited more than 40 families.
Volunteers also filled stockings for students at Mowrey Elementary School, Adolini said.
“We had smaller toys we wanted to get out to kids and help out our local school,” she said.
In October, a letter seeking donations is sent to businesses and the Penn National and Quincy Retirement communities, Adolini said. Dozens of teachers, Penn National residents, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and Penn State University representatives wrap gifts on two nights in the final week, she said.
Recipient families receive boxes of food, including a turkey, potatoes and a fruit basket.
“They’re getting enough food for at least three meals,” Adolini said.
Cindy Welsh grinned as volunteers stopped at her Mont Alto home and presented gifts to her grandchildren.
“They were here last year and it was great,” Welsh said. “If it wasn’t for these people, we wouldn’t have any Christmas.”
Her 5-year-old grandson, Brandon Welsh, opened a toy dump truck presented by Santa Claus.
“I like him because he gives us presents,” Brandon said.
James and Catherine Kabler’s children each opened one present as well, with plans to save the remaining ones for Christmas. They received a visit from the volunteers for the third year.
“The kids love all the lights and sirens,” James Kabler said.

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