WHITMAN — From Paw Patrol to footballs from Little Tykes to baby dolls there were toys and more toys waiting for placement at the VFW pavilion on Essex Street Whitman Area Toy Drive set up event on Sunday.
The room was also filled to the rafters with about 150 volunteers despite the uncooperative weather.
“This year was the most volunteers we have ever had and we were grateful to see such a turnout,” said Co-Organizer Jane Plasse.
With more than 40 empty banquet-sized tables to fill, volunteers from Whitman, Hanson and other surrounding towns emptied eight donated, giant, handmade wooden boxes built by the SST High School woodworking program last spring.
“You are really good at what you do and we appreciate you,” said Westhaver founder of the Whitman Area Toy Drive as he addressed the crowd.
The inception of the toy drive began 19 years ago with its first year for the Toys for Tots Marine toy drive however they did not have a location specific to the South Shore at the time, Westhaver said.
Whitman Area Toy Drive was founded with the intended focus on keeping the donations for families within the community.
“We have never said ‘no’ to a family in need. There is no child who should go without at Christmas time that is our adage … this is considered Santa’s Workshop,” he added.
Westhaver asked if the children that volunteered could also help Santa and soon the room was abuzz with voices, and lots of colorful movement, as boxes were carried like a shipping belt across the table rows.
All the playthings were separated by ages and gender from infants to teens allowing a few guidelines to enable an easier workflow. The Whitman Area Toy Drive does provide for tweens and they are looking for gift cards to serve that age group.
Among volunteers were local athletes from Whitman Baseball and students from Dance Dimension Studio in Abington — owners Laurie Healy of Whitman and two of her four daughters were at the event as volunteers among the 25 dance students that also attended.
Eldest daughter Samantha Healy, a teacher at the school, said that for the last five years they have had a donation box at their winter showcase as well as at the studio to encourage others to give to the event.
“We try to get everyone to help set up -the families and get the kids involved- so they can really be part of it,” said Healy who was also wrapping boxes.
Whitman Baseball Predators Coach Tom Shannon said they had 13 athletes in 12 under league who participated on Sunday.
“It is a great event and we are happy to be here to help out. It is a lot of good for our kids,” said Shannon.
The group has participated in previous years and they want to keep the tradition going each year as the kids’ age, he added.
Patricia Horger a lifelong resident of Whitman emphasized how great she feels about the importance of the toy event.
“Anything you can do for children — anytime of the year, but especially Christmas — to let them have something they want,” she said.
She has been a local gift donor to the toy drive but this was her first year at the set up event, she said.
Westhaver, who joked that each year it takes less than a half hour to set up, challenged the volunteers to see how long they would take to offload the boxes.
With such a large attendance of helpers Fred Small of Whitman School Committee commended the dedicated people who came out in the pouring rain.
“With all the craziness that is going on in the world today this reaffirms that there is goodness in so many. It just makes you feel good,” he said.
Whitman Area Toy Drive gift gathering boxes will be placed in area businesses after Thanksgiving for re-filling through the week before Christmas.
Westhaver also could not believe the set- up took only 15 minutes, according to his iPhone.
He thanked everyone who turned out following the event calling it “a great day of unity and families … was beyond imagination,” he said.