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Holiday help

Toys for Kids is collecting new unwrapped toys for kids in need throughout the holiday season. Look for red collection barrels, like the one at the Williston Fire Department, seen here with donated toys in 2012. (Observer file photo)
Toys for Kids is collecting new unwrapped toys for kids in need throughout the holiday season. Look for red collection barrels, like the one at the Williston Fire Department, seen here with donated toys in 2012. (Observer file photo)

Local efforts provide ways to give this season

By Heleigh Bostwick

Observer correspondent

December 5th, 2013

With the holiday season in full swing, most area residents are now in gift-giving mode, which makes it the ideal time to think about giving back to the community and helping families in need.

At the Williston Fire Department, the red barrel used for the Toys for Kids drive is overflowing, said Lisa Steadman, an administrative assistant who is also an EMT.

“The red barrel arrived last week,” she said. “It’s up for about six weeks and it will be emptied many times before Christmas.”

It’s not the only red barrel in town. Pay attention and you’ll see them all over Chittenden County.

The red barrels are used to collect toys for underprivileged children as part of Toys for Kids of Vermont, a statewide program run by the Marine Corps League, Donald G. Cook Detachment, a group that is made up of former Marines and Naval personnel who served with the Marines.

John Welsh, who owns Town Cobbler in Williston, coordinates the statewide effort for the Toys for Kids program.

“I’ve been doing this for 50 years, this year,” he said. “I was a 17-year–old Marine when I started doing Toys for Tots. Now it’s called Toys for Kids.”

If you don’t know what gift to get, you can always send a check, Welsh said,which they use to buy gift certificates.

“Last year, we bought $25 gift certificates for some of the kids and we’re planning to do it again,” he said.

Welsh said donors can be assured that their toys and dollars are directly benefiting Vermont kids.

“We are 100 percent volunteer,” he said. “Everything is local and the toys stay local.”

Toys for Kids partners with many area organizations and businesses including the Salvation Army of Greater Burlington, in distributing the toys.

“Toys for Kids delivers the barrels, gathers the toys and brings them to a receiving area where they are separated by age and gender,” said Steadman who, along with her colleagues at the firehouse, received an orientation from Thomas Nola, Commandant of the Marine Corps League, last week when the red barrel was delivered.

“Donated toys should be new and not wrapped,” Nola said, adding that gift certificates for older children are also welcome. “We started the gift certificates to reach a larger number of kids, especially adolescents.”

Over at the Dorothy Alling Memorial Library, the Giving Tree is now up in the lobby.

“It’s a tradition at the library,” said Youth Services Librarian Jill Coffrin, who is in charge of the program.

The Giving Tree went up on the same day that the winter holiday concert and decorating party took place, Dec. 2, and stays up through the New Year.

This year, it is decorated with 79 ornaments, each of which represents an item that the library would like to add to its collections.

“People donate money toward the item, which could be a book DVD, audio CD or a library program,” Coffrin said. “We always put on a lot of things we’d like to have. It gives people a variety of choices and people can select what they’re interested in.”

There are 50 snowflake and 29 book ornaments.

“The snowflake ornaments are for the adult section wish list and the book ornaments are for the youth wish list,” Coffrin explained.

Library programs include music and crafts for children and concerts and speakers for adults.

“You can dedicate an item to a family member or give it as a gift too,” she said, adding that the library provides a gift enclosure card for the recipient and puts a dedication inside the book, DVD or CD.

“Whatever you do, it really helps the library.”

Toys for Kids barrel locations

Simply Divine Café

New England Air Systems

The Edge Williston

Texas Roadhouse

Hannaford Supermarket

Planet Fitness

New England Federal Credit Union

Town Cobbler

UPS Store

People’s United Bank

Eagle Crest Senior Living

Shaw’s Supermarket

McGillicuddy’s Irish Ale House

Allen Brook School

Williston Fire Department

Williston Central School

Walmart

Marriot Residence Inn

Send donations to:

Toys for Kids

P.O. Box 4092

Burlington, VT 05406