The Andrew L. Hicks, Jr. Foundation was welcomed by Chester Community Charter School to hold its 6th Annual Toy Store at their Gymnasium on their West Campus on December 19th. Early that Saturday morning the school opened up its doors and allowed the Foundation to completely take over, moving the 2,208 toys that were donated into the rear of the gym to set up the hidden Inventory section of the Toy Store. While the toys were being unloaded, other elves were setting up the actual Toy Store that the children would walk through, wrapping station, and also the refreshment center, all in preparation for the first group of 20 children who were expected to arrive for their 9:30am shopping time!
Henderson High School seniors Emily Delor (two pictures up on the left) and Melissa Donato (above, second from the right) were the Chief Elves, organizing the entire event, recruiting over 90 volunteers who participated in three shifts throughout the day, and collecting all of the toys that were donated. Emily and Melissa stored the toys at their homes until just days before the event when every toy was counted, sorted, priced (between $1 and $5), and then bagged up in preparation for the Toy Store.
Over 400 Chester children (ages pre-K – 8th grade) were invited to the Toy Store. Each was hand selected by his or her social worker at school. The Foundation made sure to invite every child in the households that were chosen and specific shopping times were given to every family. The children shopped in groupings of 20 every half hour on the half hour. In between shopping times the tables are completely restocked with new toys appropriate for the age and gender of the children due at the next shopping time. It’s a carefully choreographed process, but really does work!
The children are each given $10 in play money and they are matched up with a high school personal shopper who takes them through the Toy Store (without ANY adults) and helps them spend their $10 wisely. Every child is encouraged to get at least one book, a hat and gloves (collected by Gabi Whoriskey) and also some free stocking stuffers! It’s amazing how many of these kids actually use a good amount of their $10 to shop for siblings, friends and neighbors! We love that! The Meehan Family of East Windsor, NJ made up 125 stockings filled with stocking stuffers for the 5th year in a row and brought them to the Toy Store so that the kids would be sure to have a stocking too!
After they check out, they are brought over to a table where they can choose a piece of jewelry for their mom (generously donated by Christ Community Church’s Women’s Ministry). Then everything gets wrapped up in gorgeous Christmas wrapping paper and a To/From tag gets put on every gift but left blank so that the child’s parent can write whatever they like on the tag. Everything gets bagged up for the parent and then the kids and their parents head over to get some cookies (homemade by Jill Fay and donated by the Delor Family) and hot chocolate before they leave, while the personal shopper gets back in line to help the next set of children.
This event is only possible because of the incredible generosity of the West Chester community and the Friends of the Foundation that live far away and ship the gifts in! It’s so incredible to see the quality of the toys that are donated. They are really beautiful, top-notch toys and the kids appreciate them so much! The Foundation would be unable to run this event without the incredible volunteers who help us at the Toy Store, from the personal shoppers to the wrappers, to the people working in the Inventory Room restocking the Toy Store all day long!
Chester Community Charter School
Christ Community Church Women’s Ministry
Susanne Cianfaro and Dan, Chester Community Charter School
Akosua Watts, Chester charter School for the Arts
Shanna Pryor, Toby Farms Middle School
Anitra Taylor, Widener Partnership Charter School
The Delor Family
The Donato Family
The Meehan Family
Stetson Middle School
Hillsdale Elementary School
Market Street Grille
Chester County Running Store
The Palace Bowling and Entertainment Center
East Bradford Elementary School
Premier Personal Training
East Goshen Elementary School
Fern Hill Elementary School
Penn Wood Elementary School
Fugett Middle School
Peirce Middle School