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Generosity of Pa. community makes Christmas brighter for more that 2,000 children

December 16, 2012|By JENNIFER FITCH |
  • The Toys for Tots campaign for Franklin and Fulton counties in Pennsylvania distributed presents to 817 families on Sunday in Chambersburg, Pa.
By Jennifer Fitch

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. — The rows of black garbage bags filling a vacant storefront in Chambersburg on Sunday held not trash, but the Christmas presents for 817 families with a total of more than 2,000 children.

Landis-McCleaf Marine Corps League Detachment 295 and its ladies auxiliary administered a Toys for Tots distribution for Franklin County, Fulton County and the Shippensburg area of Cumberland County in Pennsylvania.

For 11 hours, youth volunteers carried bags of toys to recipients’ vehicles.

“We live in a very generous community, even when times are tough,” said Kathy Hoffman, who organized the toy drive with her husband, Rodney.

The number of requests was higher this year, while donations from the public were down, Hoffman said. The economy is putting additional and different people in need for donated presents, she said.

“We’ve doubled in the number of children we’re helping since 2009,” Hoffman said.

The U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Program collects new, unwrapped toys during October, November and December each year, and distributes those toys as Christmas gifts to less-fortunate children in the community in which the campaign is conducted.

Hoffman used her background in warehouse distribution to streamline the Toys for Tots process out of Chambersburg. Preparation begins in earnest every September.

“The middle of last week, we started packing,” Hoffman said.

Kavan Checote of Waynesboro, Pa., started volunteering eight years ago when he was 15 years old. He was first involved with packing toys in the Harrisburg, Pa., area.

“It got me thinking, ‘Who does it at home?’” he said.

That question led to Checote and his four siblings taking on the collection of toys in southern Franklin County, Pa. On Sunday, the Checotes carried bags of toys for recipients.

Kavan Checote said he has seen Toys for Tots’ work from both sides.

“I’ve been in that position. I’ve been the family that picks up” toys for Christmas, he said.

Chad Craig of Shippensburg, Pa., organized a “fill a truck” collection drive with his employer, Con-way Freight of State Line, Pa.

“It’s about the people who have the heart and the compassion to give a toy,” he said, saying he enjoys seeing smiles as parents collect presents.

McConnellsburg, Pa., resident Kasie Harlow’s three children have received Toys for Tots gifts for three years. Her 11-year-old daughter has a beloved doll from last year’s toy drive.

“They love it,” Harlow said of Toys for Tots. “It helps.”

Crystal Newman of Chambersburg brought her three boys to the distribution center off U.S. 11. She described the Toys for Tots process as simple and well organized.

The boys enjoyed the surprises last year, Newman said.

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