The 20th annual Whitman Area Toy Drive is working hard to gather donations, as they are weeks away from the Christmas holiday in a year of apprehension and doubt.
“We want these kids to have something under the Christmas tree … and COVID is not going to stop Christmas in Whitman,” said a determined President of the Whitman Area Toy Drive Donnie Westhaver.
Along with Vice President and co founder Jane Plasse, Westhaver said the organization is unwavering in their mission to meet the need of families in Whitman.
Seeing the community prevail over this year’s health and financial challenges of 2020 has been heartwarming for organizers as they look toward another drive-by toy drop off this week being hosted in Abington to benefit the Whitman Area Toy Drive. The community is encouraged to provide a toy for those in need.
The call to lend a hand in filling Christmas wishes is being answered as members of the community have amped up donations.
On Sunday, Dec. 6, Whitman Police held their sixth Annual Stuff-A-Cruiser benefit to assist the toy drive outside at the Whitman police station — filling nine cruisers in total throughout the day. Sunday’s turnout was larger than years past.
School Resource Officer Kevin Harrington extended a thank you to everyone that brought toys to their annual Stuff-A-Cruiser. He also thanked his partners in the event Whitman Officer David Hickey, Plasse and Westhaver for what they do for the community.
“Without people like you those in need would not be able to provide a Merry Christmas for their families. A big thank you to the Whitman community for your generosity during these trying times!” Harrington expressed in a social media post.
The community support is unwavering even though the changes of this year’s drive started with “mild concern,” Westhaver said.
Toll booth fundraisers normally set up in the Town Center had been cancelled due to COVID-19 restrictions placing a deficit of $3,500 that the non-profit would have had at this time in December compared to past years, according to Westhaver.
Other donors have stepped in to help close that gap.
This week, Plasse and Westhaver were presented a “sizeable” donation from North Eastern Savings Bank on Bedford Street helping to offset the loss of other fund raisers that had been successful in past years but had to be cancelled this year.
We are concerned with the safety of all staff included (due to CDC regulations) we find that this is the safest way to continue the toy drive this year for the families to do their pick up via a drive through process, he said.
They are asking that residents be patient as they are answering as many direct messages and phone calls daily.
“We are taking a wish list for the children and we are going to do the best we can. We cannot allow parents to come in to the pavilion like in years past to pick out or handle the toys,” said Westhaver.
The plan, as in almost all events is to use the drive through method of distribution.
As of right now there will be announced times for pick up as details become finalized, organizers are asking for those in need to privately direct messages on Facebook to their Whitman Area Toy Drive page.
In the meantime, the toy drive is also seeing people helped in the past, stepping up to give back.
Westhaver’s heart was warmed on Sunday after receiving toys from a woman who had been down on her luck several years ago.
She had received help from the toy drive and was giving back to help others now that she is back on her feet, he said.
Having a moment such as this was exactly why they continue to do the toy drive, he added.
An easier modification that can also assist the toy drive directly is a new Venmo account; reducing contact for people who wish to donate to cash orders but are socially distancing from outside events. Cash was used online for the Black Friday sales and free delivery specials allowing for increase in momentum as the shelves are expanding each day.
Residents are reminded Marcello’s sub shop, and Duval’s Pharmacy has a toy drop box as well as the main lobby at the Whitman police station.
Westhaver also commended the continued work of the Food pantry of Whitman St. Vincent De Paul who they work closely with in providing holiday meals. A giving tree at the Holy Ghost church in Whitman is also a direct benefit to the Toy drive.
Abington Colony Cares for the Community located at 277 Washington Street on Dec. 11 from 5-8 is hosting a toy drive-up -drop off.
Santa’s helpers will be outdoors with boxes excepting food pantry (non perishable) donations and unwrapped toys.
Some recent trends for tweens include LED lights in new decorating fads for bedrooms. Westhaver said there are also requests for crafts, sketch pads, art supplies and gift cards to local businesses, nails salons, and coffee shop treats.