By Jill Keppeler firstname.lastname@example.org
The Tonawanda News
Tonawanda News — The barrels have been out for a week or two ... and the generosity has already begun.
John White, organizer of the Rockin’ With Santa toy campaign, said that there are more donation sites than before, as the community continues to embrace the effort to provide toys to families in need throughout the area.
In addition to past donation sites such as the Tonawanda News, Armstrong Pumps on Oliver Street in North Tonawanda is new this year, as is Crazy Jakes on Webster Street and the Tonawanda and North Tonawanda city halls on Niagara Street and Payne Avenue respectively. The Royal Restaurant on Sheridan Drive in the Town of Tonawanda offers a site outside the Twin Cities, and Dollar General on Niagara Street in the City of Tonawanda has filled multiple barrels with toys already, White said.
“I just went there yesterday and the third one’s full,” he said Tuesday. “It’s just unbelievable how the community comes through.”
The barrel tucked inside the entrance of the Dollar General was brimming Tuesday afternoon, with a bowling set, action figures and a toy castle perched near the top. Store manager Jim McCutcheon said that the location has collected more than 500 toys so far, some in the stocking-stuffer range, but also some bigger items. One woman comes in every week and places one least one toy in the barrel each visit, he said.
“The response has been terrific,” he said. “Our customers from this area, they know about it and they support it.
“All we do is ask them if they want to support it. They almost always say yes.”
Besides the new sites, toy drop-off locations are The Tonawanda News, 435 River Road; Submasters, 105 Main St., the Chamber of Commerce of the Tonawandas, 15 Webster St. in North Tonawanda, Fast Teddy’s, 221 Main St.; Tonawanda Fire Headquarters, 44 William St., and the Twin City Elks Lodge 860, 55 Main St., in Tonawanda.
In addition, the campaign, in its 13th year, will be supported by the annual Rockin’ With Santa musical event, which will take place starting at 6:30 p.m. Dec. 14 at the Twin City Elks Lodge, with the entry fee a gift for a child from infancy through 16 years old. Widow Maker will perform from 7 to 9 p.m., followed by Silver Xtreme from 9 to 11 p.m.
“It’s going to be a nice event, to get those last 1,000 or so toys we need to close the gap because we have even more families this year than last year,” White said. “It seems to be the trend; it’s unfortunate. It’s the way the economy is.”
Last year, Rockin’ With Santa provided gifts for 140 families. This year, it looks like it will be closer to 155 to 160 families, he said. Names are gathered via the YWCA of the Tonawandas, the Head Start program, St. Vincent de Paul outreach program, Girard Place and others. White stresses that organizers are careful to be sure that there’s no duplication of services.
“We’re pretty sure the people who come to our event, it’s the only thing in town for them,” he said. “There are families in need; they don’t mean to be in need, but they are.”
With multiple children per family, and three toys given per child and stocking stuffers, that can come to thousands of toys needed for the campaign, White said. Monetary donations can also be made, and help the campaign fulfill the need for gifts for older children in the 14- to 16-year-old range, who are often overlooked in the donation barrels. White recommends more complicated games or puzzles for those looking to help that need, or the monetary donations that go toward gift cards.
Besides the hundreds who donate to the gift drive, there are dozens of individuals and groups who help out. The North Tonawanda High School Honor Society students pick out “the best toys,” White said and the Exchange Club of the Tonawandas, the Kiwanis Club and the Zonta Club members, who wrap all the gifts, support the campaign.
“That’s what it’s about. A lot of these people, they have kids who are grown up, out of the house, and they want to do something,” White said. “It’s a win-win situation. And it’s not going to go away because we know how many kids would get hurt if it did. We won’t let it go away. And neither will the community.”
In addition to the Dec. 14 event at the Elks Lodge, Crazy Jakes on Webster Street will dedicate a portion of the proceeds of its ‘80s prom party,’ with music by Nerds Gone Wild, to the Rockin’ With Santa campaign. The event will take place at 7 p.m. Saturday. Admission is $10 and tickets are available at the bar.IF YOU GO • WHAT: Rockin' With Santa event • WHEN: 6:30 p.m. Dec. 14 • WHERE: Twin City Elks Lodge 860, 55 Main St., City of Tonawanda • ADMISSION: Entry is a gift for a child from infantcy through 16 years old. COLLECTION SITES • The Tonawanda News, 435 River Road, North Tonawanda • Submasters, 105 Main St., North Tonawanda • Chamber of Commerce of the Tonawandas, 15 Webster St., North Tonawanda • Armstrong Pumps, 93 East Ave., North Tonawanda • Crazy Jakes, 26 Webster St., North Tonawanda • North Tonawanda City Hall, 216 Payne Ave. • Tonawanda City Hall, 200 Niagara St. • Dollar General, 29 Niagara St., City of Tonawanda • Fast Teddy's, 221 Main St., City of Tonawanda • Fire Headquarters, 44 William St., City of Tonawanda • Twin City Elks Lodge 860, 55 Main St., Tonawanda. • Royal Restaurant, 1320 Sheridan Drive, Town of Tonawanda