The Violet Township Fire Department recently kicked off an annual toy drive to help make sure all children throughout Fairfield County receive a gift this holiday season.
For the 24th consecutive year, Violet Township firefighters are leading an effort to collect toys and gift certificates to provide gifts to children whose families are finding it difficult to make ends meet this Christmas and holiday season.
The annual Holiday Toy Drive sponsored by the VTFD and the Violet Township Firefighters Local 3558 started just prior to Thanksgiving. Through Dec. 23, local firefighters will collect new, unwrapped toys at their three fire stations and at a number of businesses and other locations throughout the Violet Township and Pickerington area.
From there, the toys will be distributed to Fairfield County children who've been identified by local school districts and Lancaster-based Maywood Mission as being in need during the holidays.
"We're actually fortunate that we can do this for people who are not well off and make sure everyone has something to open on Christmas," Violet Township firefighter Jimmy Barber said. "We've seen the need more and more in the last few years and, obviously with the economy the way it is, there's a need now more than ever."
The fire department's holiday toy drive started nearly a quarter-century ago after local firefighters teamed with Kroger to collect toys to provide for less fortunate children at Christmas.
From there, the event has grown to the point where more than 30 businesses regularly participate and more than 3,000 toys are collected and distributed.
"We have at least 20 to 25 drop boxes in the community," Barber said. "You'll see our signs and the boxes out.
"People can donate new, unwrapped toys at the boxes, or they're more than welcome to come to our fire stations."
Violet Township's three fire stations are located at 8700 Refugee Road, 21 Lockville Road and 2365 Taylor Park Drive.
Barber said the department is hoping to collect thousands of toys this year to provide to children ages 1 through 17.
In addition to toys, the department also will accept electronic devices, such as iPods and video-gaming systems, and monetary donations. However, the drive does not seek clothing donations because other area collection drives are focused on those efforts.
Additional information about the toy drive can be obtained by visiting the Violet Township Firefighters Toy Drive on Facebook, or by calling the department's toy drive hotline at (614) 382-5952. Firefighters also can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Those in need of assistance this holiday season can contact Fairfield County Information and Referral, 108 W. Main St., Suite. C, Lancaster, Ohio, 43130, or call (740) 687-0500.
"Ninety-nine percent of the toys stay in Fairfield County," Barber said. "We don't have a goal this year, but we want to collect as many toys as possible. We try to make it bigger and better every year, and we try to help as many families as we can.
"We've received a lot of support for the toy drive over the years and we want to say thanks to all the residents of the Pickerington area for being so generous. Hopefully, that will continue," he said. "It's helping kids out there that otherwise wouldn't have anything for Christmas, and it's a wonderful thing."