Each year at this time, the Violet Township Fire Department and the firefighters' union, IAFF Local 3558, through their "Annual Holiday Toy Drive," call upon the goodwill of Pickerington-area residents and businesses to help put smiles on the faces of area children in need.
This year is no exception.
The Toy Drive started Nov. 19 and runs through Dec. 21. New, unwrapped toys are collected for distribution throughout Violet Township and Fairfeld County so those less fortunate can experience a little joy.
Organizer Jimmy Barber of the Violet Township Fire Department said he and his fellow firefighters will be dedicating hours of their own time to the drive for the next month to ensure it's a success.
"It's well worth the cause," Barber said.
He said toys can be dropped off at any Violet Township Fire Station and at drop boxes located at various businesses.
"There will be 25 to 30 boxes out all over the city of Pickerington and Violet Township," Barber said. "You can see them at area restaurants and at the Kroger stores."
Barber said he hopes area residents will again rise to the occasion and duplicate or even surpass last year's effort.
"Last year, we helped over 900 families," he said. "It was pretty significant. There was a tremendous amount of toys that came through here in a month."
Barber said toys for all ages are desired, however, selecting a gift for older children can be a challenge. Donations of gift cards or monetary donations are encouraged for the older children so they can then pick out what they want.
"It's hard to get stuff for the older kids, like early teenagers," Barber said. "We don't get a lot of toys for the older kids or stuff that they're interested in, so we accept gift cards for them."
Barber said the Violet Township Fire Department works closely with Maywood Mission in Lancaster on the Toy Drive.
"They are the ones that distribute the toys," he said. "All the toys are sent down to Maywood Mission and all the toys stay right here in Fairfield County."
A special event during the monthlong Toy Drive will be the inaugural "Drive-Thru Toy Drive" in Pickerington, conducted by Girl Scout Troop 2140.
It is planned from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Dec. 15at Violet Township Fire Station 592 at 8700 Refugee Road.
Scout leader Rhonda van Arsdale said her troop of eighth-graders is participating in the event as part of its requirement toward obtaining the Silver Award, the highest award a Cadette troop can earn.
"They don't have to do it, but it's a big service project and the girls decided to do it," said van Arsdale, adding, "The girls just want to help kids that wouldn't normally have a Christmas."
For that event, people will be able to drive through the bays at the fire station, drop off the toys, and go about their day.
"You can go through one side of the building and out the other," Barber said. "You drop the toys off and keep going. It's the first time we've ever done this.
"I think it's going to be a really good thing," said Barber, who is also coordinating that event.
He said those seeking assistance from the Toy Drive can contact Fairfield County Information and Referral at 108 W. Main St., Suite C, Lancaster, Ohio 43130; or call 740-687-0500.
He urged people seeking assistance not to call or come to the fire stations, because the Violet Township Fire Department and IAFF Local 3558 only accept toys, gift card or money to be delivered and does not actually distribute them.
"We still get tons of call from people thinking that we actually hand out the toys," Barber said. "We have to make sure (the process) is done correctly."
Those wishing to donate who have questions can call the Toy Drive Hotline at 614-382-5952 or email Toys@violet.oh.us
Barber expressed gratitude for the community's participation in the Toy Drive.
"Without the support of our local businesses and people in the community, there is no way we can do this," he said.
"Last year we helped over 900 families. It was pretty significant. There was a tremendous amount of toys that came through here in a month."
-- JIMMY BARBER
Violet Township firefighter