On a cold day in December, 2012, a program participant of Crossroads Recovery Center, who was homeless and looking for work and shelter, asked if there were any programs that could help her with some toys for her three young children who were temporarily living with a family member in Philadelphia - until she could find a place to live. She recently lost her residence and was working very hard to find a job so she could afford a new apartment. After researching for resources in the area, it was discovered that there were no programs that would help someone in need - who was not connected to a specific residential program. This included anyone homeless and impoverished who were struggling to survive on their own. So, Crossroads Recovery Center became a ‘Toys for Tots’ partner, through the help of Bob Lohr, a Marine who facilitates the distribution for the program out of Limerick, PA; now these families in need could have a Christmas for their children.
On Friday, Dec. 19, 2017, more than 90 members of the community at large, including military veterans from the Coatesville Veterans Administration Hospital, students from Coatesville High School’s ROTC program, a dozen members of the West Chester Area Senior Center and volunteers from service groups throughout the county gathered at University of West Chester to sort and bag toys for more than 2,000 children in need this year.
“It is sad to know that even in a county with the highest income in Pennsylvania, Chester County, there are so many families with children that need assistance”, says event coordinator Bernie Tiger, from Horizon House’s Community Crossroads Recovery Center and Stages Arts Initiative, “but we are also very fortunate to have such great community support for those in need, especially at this time of the year.”
After that first year of successfully serving 134 children, Crossroads partnered with Stages Arts Initiative and Connect Points to serve other county families in need through additional service providers. This collaboration grew exponentially each year; 134 in 2012, 260 in 2013, 720 in 2014, 1,045 in 2015, 1670 in 2016 and 2037 in 2017. This was the sixth consecutive year that Crossroads Recovery Center, Stages Arts Initiative and Connect Points organized and facilitated this event, which started with about 50 families, but has grown to over 780 families this year.
Our event now has grown so large that we have partnered with Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health to facilitate this year’s event at the Devereux Campus on Boot Road in West Chester, PA. Our costs have also increased to provide this service. All our volunteers work tirelessly, for free, to coordinate this large event, but the program still must pay to facilitate the distribution, trucks to bring the gifts to the site, and the multiple costs associated with all the materials needed to organize the event. The event in 2017 cost over $1,000.00 to pay for, this year we know this will exceed $1,200.00
All the participating agencies embark on fundraising to cover the costs; it is a daunting challenge as these agencies are non-profit and do not have any additional money for outside programs. Some of our volunteers will give their own money, in addition to all their time, to help with the event because we always fall short of our needs. That is why we are looking for contributions from the public, so that we can make this a success once again in 2018! Through the incredible generosity of many who give, the Toys for Tots program of Chester, Bucks and Montgomery Counties coordinate and distribute over 42,000 toys in a two-day span. With the help from countless volunteers, this amazing program has given joy to the lives of many children on Christmas.
Recognition for the Toys for Tots program and how our less fortunate community members show such compassion and charity, even when they have little or nothing, is certainly worth sharing.
The face of a child receiving a gift, priceless!
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