AYER — The holiday season is a time for sharing with and giving to others and boy, did this community ever show just how much it cared!
The Police Department’s yearly Holiday Toy Drive presented Loaves & Fishes with nearly 1,900 unwrapped toys for approximately 525 needy children in Ayer, Devens, Groton, Harvard, Littleton and Shirley.
Vicki Zimmon, Loaves & Fishes toy distribution organizer, was nearly speechless when presented with the amount of generosity throughout the communities.
“This is really a reflection on the local communities,” she said. “(The amount of donations is) always better than the previous year. It’s just amazing what the community does.”
Toys varied from little to big, inexpensive and expensive, for all the age groups this year as well.
Bicycles; XBox 360s; board games like Chutes and Ladders, Monopoly and more; dolls, including a Hannah Montana concert doll; sporting goods such as basketballs, soccer balls and footballs; the ESPN version of Scene It and many more gifts were spread throughout the lobby of the police station before being delivered to the pantry on Barnum Road.
“It’s just amazing,” Loaves & Fishes trustee Judy Grande said. “Even in this hard economic time, we really get the support of the community.”
Students from the Middle School also pitched in by selling candy canes during their lunch during the school day, for 50 cents a piece.
“They raised over $352 selling candy canes,” said Terri Rollins, Middle School community liaison. “They volunteered during lunch to get the other students to support the community.”
Zakery Micheal Walker, Katherine Esielionis, Kirstin Richard and Dani Dunn decided to give up their lunch to help their classmates and kids in neighboring communities.
“To kids, Christmas without presents is not exciting,” Richard said. “Kids would feel sad.”
For Esielionis, it’s not just about the kids themselves.
“Christmas is about presents, but it’s really about family and being together,” she said. “Each kid should get a chance to have a toy to open up on Christmas morning.”
Town employees decided to buy toys for the drive instead of purchasing presents for each other, to go along with the donation they make each year.
Renaissance Electronics Corp. in Harvard donated to the toy drive for the fourth year as well.
“I used to do Toys for Tots each year,” owner Mike Snee said. “It’s easier to make the donations here. We tend to give toys and money for the older children. It’s amazing how many toys were donated this year.”
A representative from Vitasoy said the company not only donated to the Police Department’s Holiday Toy Drive, but they also sponsored families from Pepperell because they feel it’s every companies obligation to support the community.
Scott Lombardi of Polyone Distribution said he felt many of his co-workers wanted to do something for the holiday season, but they weren’t sure what to do or where to start.
“I saw the sign in front of the station announcing the toy drive,” he explained. “So, I told my co-workers to bring the toys to work and then I would deliver them to the station.”
Not only did Lombardi organize the toy drive at his place of work, he also reached out to Nashoba Valley Trucking about transporting the toys from the station to Loaves & Fishes.
Bob Hebb stood in the back of the 12-foot box truck, organizing the bags, boxes and totes filled with toys as police officers, Zimmon and Grande loaded it.
The drive was kicked off with the donation of 150 new toys from the Patrol Officers Associations and the Police Superior Officers Union at the end of November.