Helping to ensure that every child has a gift to unwrap this year, several Wellington groups are spreading the word: they need toys for more than 300 children in need.
Wellington’s Community Services Departments is working with Wellington’s Interfaith Group, along with Ultima Fitness, Jet Hauling, the Mall at Wellington Green, the Women of the Wellington Chamber of Commerce, the Wellington Holiday Run, Tara Management, Palm Beach County Fire-Rescue and the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office on this year’s Hometown Holiday Toy Drive, now in its seventh year.
The toy drive follows on the heels of Wellington’s successful Hometown Holiday Food Drive, which is actually where most of the families in need sign up to receive toys.
Volunteer Gregg Harr said they are gathering gifts for newborns up to young adults.
“We’re making the same appeal to the community as we did for food,” Harr said. “We had more than 146 families that we fed during Thanksgiving. There were a few seniors and people who didn’t have children, but there were many families with three, four, five and [more] children.”
Many of these kids wouldn’t have holiday gifts to enjoy without Wellington’s toy drive. “What better group to help during Christmas than children?” Harr asked.
Parents are able to pick toys for their children, much like a shopping experience, Harr said, which allows them to personalize the gifts for their kids.
The largest demand for toys, at the moment, is for boys ages 10 through 12, as well as boys and girls ages 14 through 17.
From now until Dec. 20, toys can be dropped off at Village Hall (12300 W. Forest Hill Blvd.), Village Park (11700 Pierson Road), Ultima Fitness (12799 W. Forest Hill Blvd.), the Community Services Office (1092 Wellington Trace), the Lake Wellington Professional Centre (12133 Ken Adams Way) and all Wellington fire-rescue stations. Gifts can also be dropped off while visiting other village facilities, such as the Water Treatment Plant, the Public Works Office, the Wellington Tennis Center and the Wellington Aquatics Complex. Schools such as Bright Horizons and the Goddard School are also collecting toys.
New, unwrapped toys and gift cards make excellent gifts, and monetary donations allow the toy drive’s organizers to purchase gifts for children in specific age groups if donations were sparse.
Many toys have already been collected, but more are needed.
“We are very fortunate to have such a generous community,” Senior Services Specialist Meridith Tuckwood said. “We [helped] 157 families for Thanksgiving. That was phenomenal. The toy drive is upon us; we really need help again.”
The toys will be collected and will be picked up by parents from St. Peter’s United Methodist Church. Pastor Emily Denmark McGee has been working hard to coordinate the event and ensure that all local children in need will not go without on Christmas.
Large items, such as bicycles, have been donated in the past, but in order to keep things fair, requests have been made for multiple smaller items rather than singular big-ticket items, so more children can benefit, McGee explained.
Teenagers are often the most difficult to find appropriate gifts for. Board games, puzzles, gift cards and similar items are suggested for them.
“The donations that have come in are just amazing,” McGee said. “The people of Wellington, and organizations I’ve never even heard of, stopped off in the morning when we were putting everything together and dropped off a truckload of toys.”
Members of McGee’s church volunteer in droves because they enjoy seeing the smiles on the faces and how empowering it is for the parents to be able to give their children gifts.
“To me, I just love seeing the people pour out and the generosity. For me, that’s the biggest joy,” she said. “My church members’ Christmas wish is to make someone else’s Christmas special. They have a lot, and they want to give.”
Last year, they ran out of wrapping paper, so any wrapping paper donations are also welcome.
Those in need who were not part of the Hometown Holiday Food Drive should call (561) 753-2476 to receive help from the Hometown Holiday Toy Drive.