With just 10 days in December left before the Toy Store, we had only received 180 toys and so a call went out for people to please give and miraculously, the Foundation ended up receiving over 1,600 toys! Each one was carefully taken over to the McCook’s house in Downingtown on Thursday night by the many high schoolers who were working on the Toy Drive. They included: Jordan and Matt Tuttle from Henderson High School; Brendan, Amber and Carly Hontz from Rustin High School; Lindsay Ricken from Downingtown STEM, and Cole McCook from Downingtown STEM. Cole’s siblings, Katie, Liddy and Andrew McCook also played a big part in the Toy Drive. That Thursday night was spent organizing the toys into categories, counting them and also pricing them between $1 and $5. Then all the toys were bagged in clear lawn bags by category and set to the side to be loaded on the U-Haul truck the following night.
On Saturday morning, the toys were all set to go and the crowd of volunteers met at the Hicks’ home to caravan to Chester together. The group arrived at 8:30am and began unloading all of the toys into the room at the Chester Boys and Girl Club that was used as “back room inventory” while the front room was decorated to look like a Toy Store. The tables were covered with red tablecloth and then adorned with the beautiful toys. Beautiful books and stuffed animals were placed throughout the store and it looked magical by 9:00am when the first group of guests arrived.
In total, 350 Chester children were chosen to attend the Toy Store (based on their need as communicated to the Foundation by their school social workers). Each child was given $15 in play money and matched up with a personal shopper and encouraged to walk through the Toy Store to pick out the toys that they wanted most. Many of the children were too shy and unassuming to event spend the whole $15, which represented about $100 or $125 in toys. The high school personal shoppers did a good job of assisting the children in making age appropriate selections and then the pair exited the Toy Store and headed to the wrapping station.
The children’s parents met them at the wrapping station and then the high school student took the child over to get hot chocolate and cookies while mom or dad got the toys wrapped and gift tags were put on them and they were all bagged up to be taken away by the parents and put under the tree for Christmas.
The Foundation volunteers worked from 7:30am until 5:00pm in three shifts. They were fantastic. Everyone was so cheerful, helpful and caring and together they made the experience wonderful for so many Chester families. Because the Foundation received 1,000 of the 2.600 toys in the last four days just before the Toy Store, the Foundation could not invite enough children to the Toy Store to accept all of those last minute gifts. But nothing was wasted.
In the few days after the Toy Store, many recipients were identified and the toys were delivered to them. For instance, Toby Farms Middle School just started a new football team for 7th and 8th graders. Every one of the 36 boys on that team received a new football just days before Christmas and the team was gifted with footballs for practice. The same is true for the 16 boys basketball players at Toby Farms and for the girls team as well. The Intramural program at that school received lots of new balls, jump ropes and other sports equipment. The Special Needs classroom received Nerf balls, wooden puzzles and stuffed animals.
The Toy Store was a tremendous success. The toys donated were of the very best quality that we have ever received. It was so humbling to see hundreds and hundreds of gorgeous toys accumulate in anticipation of delivery to the hundreds of kids that were served. The children enjoyed the excitement of the Toy Store and their parents were so grateful, and truly moved by the generosity of the West Chester and Downingtown communities.
Chester Boys and Girls Club
Akosua Watts, Chester Charter School for the Arts
Shanna Pryor, Toby Farms Middle School
Susanne Cianfaro, Chester Community Charter School
The McCook Family
The Hontz Family
The Ricken Family
The Tuttle Family