Tonawanda News — Younger children get three gifts each; older kids receive two. Families are also allowed one game or puzzle and craft set, as well as stuffed animals and stocking stuffers as long as they last.
Volunteers -- who arrived about 7:30 a.m. -- check people in, escort families, keep the tables organized, wrap gifts and take on myriad other duties throughout the morning. Mary Daumen, who also designed the toy drive and event posters with their familiar Santa mascot, manned the stuffed-animal table. She’s been volunteering at the event for years.
“It’s a good feeling today,” she said. “Those who really need it ... it’s awesome to see their faces.”
John White, who with his wife, Kate, has been an organizer of the toy drive for its 13 years, said that after all those years, there’s a system to the event. It’s not without its bumps (one man Sunday morning tried to tell volunteers he had eight children, a claim quickly disproved by the agency that referred him), but most of the time, White said, it’s Tonawanda at its finest.
“With 30 volunteers, all good-hearted, caring adults, the day they don’t get goosebumps when the families come in is the day we quit,” he said. “They all have a story.”
It’s true ... and the volunteers treasure those stories, from the parents who tried to refuse to take more than one toy because they could see how many others were waiting in line, to the mother who was so overjoyed to find a stuffed sock-monkey for her son (his one Christmas request) that she offered to put every other selection back.
Volunteer Diane MacNeil has been involved every year of the event. A friends of the Whites, she has a lot of those stories ... and she remembers when it could have been her.