Tonawanda News — TOWN OF TONAWANDA — Thanks to the generosity of Western New York, the shelves of the Ken-Ton Closet didn’t stay bare for long.
After someone broke into its site at the Sheridan-Parkside Community Center and made off with most of its collection of school supplies — barely a week before the start of school — things didn’t look good for the first back-to-school season of the organization’s existence. An appeal went out to residents on behalf of the Closet, which is dedicated to providing clothing, toiletries and school supplies to children in need in the Ken-Ton community.
And the community answered.
“I feel bad in a way in a way, because there are so many people we’ll never be able to thank. There are hundreds and thousands of items,” said Jill O’Malley, director of the Ken-Ton Closet. “The response was swift, it was positive and it’s been huge.
“It’s been multi-faceted. I think what really surprised me, to be honest ... what I honestly hoped for was that parents like myself, who maybe pick up a few extra packages of crayons, would pitch in. But that’s been one of biggest surprises, that we have not only empty nesters helping, we have people who don’t have kids at all. People who just care about this.”
Donations poured in the behalf of state Sen. Mark Grisanti, Walmart, Greek to Me restaurant, the Kenmore Teachers Association, Univera Healthcare, Fidelis Care, the Town of Tonawanda police department, Northrop Grumman Corp, Buffalo State College, the Dollar Store in Del-Ton plaza, Rite Aid in Tonawanda, the Girl Scouts, KidsPlay and others.
Individuals contributed on their own or as part of other groups’ supply drives. Someone — O’Malley has no idea who — dropped off a bunch of plastic bags filled with 10 to 15 of each item on the Closet’s “needed” list.
And two businesses side by side on Brighton Road in the Town of Tonawanda came through in a big way with donations collected at their sites.
Bumblebeez Consignment and Children’s Boutique already served as a collection site for the Closet, but stepped up for additional donations after the theft.,
“We still have stuff coming in. It’s amazing,” said Kara Cutler, co-owner of Bumblebeez. “I knew people would come through and work out, but it was way beyond what I expected them to do. We have everything from pens and erasers and backpacks to pencils and paper and crayons. The generosity was amazing.
“The support of the community really blew us away. It really shows the heart of the community. “
Brendan Toy, owner of La Hacienda Brighton next door to Bumblebeez, heard about the collection from the owners of the store and figured that, since La Hacienda was open later at night, the restaurant could help out.
Toy printed up fliers through Boulevard Printing (which didn’t charge him — “They felt like they wanted to be part of it, too,” he said), handed them out to every customer and taped them to the top of every pizza box. Nearby Greif Brothers donated a barrel for the collection. Donations started pouring in from patrons, from supplies to money to a boxful of notebooks from Brighton Eggert Pharmacy across the street.
“In one week, we got ... I can’t tell you how much we got,” Toy said. “I had boxes full. My truck was full.
“It’s kind of a blessing in disguise. We just glad we could help them out. People say stuff about Buffalo and, yeah, the economy is tough and, yeah, taxes are high. But when something like this happens, people put that stuff aside and work together. Buffalo’s amazing. We’re just happy to be a part of everything.”
Others came through in other ways. Kathy and Duane Russell of the Town of Tonawanda recently celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary. While they wanted to have a celebration for their vow renewal, Kathy Russell said, they didn’t want to ask for gifts ... so they made it known that donations to the Closet would be appreciated.
The couple collected two totes of school items and clothes, as well as purchasing 80 pairs of underwear and socks for the Closet at Walmart with gift cards they received.
“It was aweseome. One backpack was so heavy I could hardly lift it,” Kathy Russell said. “It was nice. We celebrated our anniversary and we made a difference.”
So much has been donated that the Closet no longer has an active need for school supplies, although that could change as things get depleted over the course of the year, O’Malley said. However, there will be various collection efforts from month to month, from Halloween costumes to winter coats, depending on what’s needed.
Parents of Ken-Ton students still in need of school supplies can call the Ken-Ton Closet at 218-9589, email firstname.lastname@example.org, visit the Facebook page or the website at www.ktpa.org/Ken-Ton_Closet.html. O’Malley said the fastest way to get help is to send the Closet an email with the student’s name, school and supply list.TO HELP (OR TO GET HELP) • Call the Ken-Ton Closet at 218-9589, email email@example.com, visit the Facebook page or the website at www.ktpa.org/Ken-Ton_Closet.html.