One Christmas Eve several years ago, a little girl found herself in the care of what was then the state Department of Social Services, unable to go home and with no area relatives to take her in.
“Will Santa be able to find me tonight?” she asked the agency workers trying to find her a temporary foster home. When a Shrewsbury teenager heard the story later from his aunt, he and his cousin had an idea.
To ensure there would always be gifts for children in similar difficulties, they started a holiday toy collection drive, now run by Shrewsbury Youth & Family Services Inc. and the regional office of the state’s Department of Children and Families.
“I can’t tell you how many families we help,” said LouAnn Geer, who has continued to help oversee the drive ever since her son Roderick launched the effort as a high school sophomore.
The drive is just one way area residents can give back locally and nationally this year. From Groton to Wrentham, organizations are helping to spread holiday cheer through donations of toys, turkeys, and Christmas trees.
For the eighth year in a row, the Shrewsbury-based holiday toy collection effort is accepting unwrapped new, nonviolent toys and clothes for younger children, and gift cards for teens. In previous years, the drive has been able to help hundreds of local families and children up to age 18 across Worcester County receive that extra touch of holiday cheer when food, clothing, and heat are bigger priorities.
Participants can donate toys and gifts to four locations in Shrewsbury: Gymnastics Learning Center, 574 Lake St.; Shrewsbury Senior Center, 98 Maple Ave.; Avidia Bank, 23 Maple Ave.; and Osco Pharmacy, White City Plaza.
Donations will be accepted until Dec. 14, and will be stored and sorted at Trinity Church. On Dec. 18, parents who receive services through the Worcester area’s Department of Children and Families can select toys for their children. For more information, contact Geer at 508-753-6789.
Holiday Gift Bag Project
For more than 30 years, Concord Prison Outreach has held its Holiday Gift Bag Project, which provides all 1,700 inmates at MCI-Concord and the Northeastern Correctional Center in West Concord with gift bags for the holidays. Individuals, families, faith groups, clubs, or organizations can purchase the needed items and drop them off at the River Street entrance to Trinity Episcopal Church, 81 Elm St. in Concord, starting Tuesday and continuing through Dec. 3.
As determined by the state Department of Correction, each gift bag will contain deodorant soap, toothpaste, a pad of white paper, white envelopes, socks, shampoo, deodorant, and a handmade holiday greeting card. A list with the specific requirements for each item can be found at www.concordprisonoutreach.org .
Cash donations are also welcome; tax-deductible checks can be made out to Concord Prison Outreach Inc., with “Holiday Gifts” on the memo line, and mailed to Holiday Gift Bag Project, PO Box 383, Concord, MA 01742.
In addition, adult volunteers are needed to sort the items and prepare the gift bags.
Sessions will be held at Trinity Episcopal Church from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on weekdays from Tuesday through Dec. 11. There are two evening sessions as well: on Wednesday and on Dec. 4, from 7 to 9 p.m.
Shop for Your Kids Day
For more than 25 years, the Loaves & Fishes organization’s annual “Shop for Your Kids Day” has worked to combat hunger in the MetroWest area. This year’s event will be held on Dec. 20 at the Devens Community Center, 100 Sherman Ave., in Devens.
According to Loaves & Fishes, more than 210 clients “shopped” for their children last year, choosing from donated new toys, books, jewelry, and gift cards. With the help of more than 100 volunteers working on the event, 500 children who may not otherwise have received gifts were able to experience some of the joy of the holidays.
The nonprofit organization is looking for donations of new, unwrapped gifts valued up to $25, or gift cards in denominations of $10, $15, or $25. For a list of the most desired items,visit www.loavesfishespantry.org.
The Ayer, Groton, Harvard, Littleton, and Shirley police forces are collecting toys, as are local post offices. Toys may also be dropped off at the Cottage Restaurant in Ayer, the Shirley Public Library, Littleton’s Reuben Hoar Library, Littleton High School, and Donelan’s Supermarkets in Groton and Littleton. Middlesex Savings Bank and North Middlesex Savings Bank also have collection boxes. Continued...