CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. — Thefts of donated toys from the Franklin County, Pa., Toys for Tots drive added frustrations to this year’s collection, but the community responded by filling needs for nearly 800 families, organizers said Sunday.
The drive, which also serves Fulton and southern Cumberland counties, distributed overflowing bags of toys Sunday from a warehouse north of Chambersburg. The distribution came two weeks after reported thefts from collection boxes.
“After the thefts, the public came together. We had cars lined up with people dropping off bikes and checks,” said Tom Hazlett, coordinator for the three counties.
Boxes with about 30 to 40 toys each were stolen from eight stores, Hazlett said. Publicity about the incidents and information about how volunteers should be identified seemed to end the stealing, he said.
Post-theft monetary donations totaled more than $4,000, Hazlett said. This year’s drive provided gifts for 200 more families than usual, he said.
“It’s a really good thing because it helps parents stuck in a tough situation,” said Chambersburg resident Scott Shipley, who was picking up toys for his three children.
Eric Holden of Chambersburg said he has volunteered for a few years with various aspects of the drive.
“It’s a good cause. It makes it nice that even if families are struggling, they can have Christmas for the kids,” he said.
Betsy Mose of Chambersburg volunteered by bringing in toys, packing them and registering families.
“It’s a great program. It’s there for the people, for the community,” she said.
Kathy Hoffman of Chambersburg created applications, waivers and fliers when volunteering through the Marine Corps League’s ladies auxiliary.
“I like that we’re helping with giving back. We’re helping children have Christmas,” Hoffman said.
Hoffman’s system of numbered registrations allowed families to stop by in designated windows of time to retrieve bags from rows and rows of gifts. Hazlett said 20 people were in line before the doors opened at 10 a.m.
“We figured if we do one (family) a minute, it’ll take us to 7 o’clock,” he said.