WHITMAN — Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday have become ingrained in the seasonal habits of many shoppers between Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.
A group of Whitman residents are hoping the community has come to know the Sunday after Thanksgiving as Whitman Area Toy Drive Day. For 15 years, volunteers have been taking time on that day to kick off the annual toy drive, setting up shop in the Whitman VFW Pavilion, 95 Essex St.
The drive, which will also host a Photos with Santa party at the pavilion from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 4, is the first of several holiday events — many featuring St. Nick — in Whitman and Hanson. [See box].
On Sunday, Nov. 27 a small army of volunteers, including veterans, families, members of the Whitman Mothers Club and the WHRHS Drama Club gathered at the pavilion to sort gifts already donated onto tables representing gender and age ranges.
“What you see here now is maybe one-tenth of what we do through the whole Christmas season,” said toy drive founder Donnie Westhaver, gesturing toward tables already covered with toys. “We don’t want any kid to go without a toy. I don’t care where they’re from.”
Westhaver said 90 to 95 percent of toys collected would go to Whitman families with the remainder to help families in need in Hanson, Abington and Rockland when organizations there run out of toys.
“I hope I’m around for another 20 years to be able to do this and when I’m not around I hope someone picks it up and keeps it going, because there are a lot of families out there in need,” he said. “There are actually families you wouldn’t expect — it might be your next-door neighbor. You might think they’re doing well, but they’re not.”
He said families that are just scraping by for the rest of the year have an especially hard time at the holidays.
“Christmas is for kids, but it’s also for us — you never lose that spirit,” Westhaver told his volunteers.
Large donations have been received from: Whitman VFW Men’s Auxiliary — $1,500; Whitman Mothers Club — $500; Sons of the American Legion — $500; Getchell Plumbing — $300; Whitman Firefighters Union Local 1769 — $250; and Fred Small — $250. Monetary donations helped the 501 (C)3 charity do some shopping on Black Friday for toys and boosted efforts to obtain grocery gift certificates at Wal-Mart for Christmas dinners.
Donations of $2,000 worth of toys from Brian Dennehy and his mother Jackie; toys collected at a family party hosted by Kevin Mayer and John Cookson at the Hanson AA and Reebok clothing from Kristin Nelson Ross were a few of those received already. Donation boxes, including three at WHRHS for the first time, can be found at the following businesses: Marcello’s Sub Shop, Whitman American Legion, Whitman VFW, Rockland Trust and Mutual Bank Whitman branches, Joe Goldsberry Photo & Video, O’Rourke Insurance, Whitman Knights of Columbus, Dancer’s Dream, Duval’s Pharmacy, Damien’s Pub in Hanson and Bailey’s Tri-Town.
For more information on donations or registering as a recipient family, contact Donnie Westhaver at 781-447-6883.