The Violet Township Fire Department and the Violet Township Firefighter's Local 3558 union are joining forces once again to put smiles on the faces of area children in need this holiday season.
Both organizations are leading the effort to collect new, unwrapped toys through their annual Holiday Toy Drive, which runs through Dec. 23.
"It's always a huge event," said John Eisel, Violet Township Fire Department chief.
"Our whole training room becomes 'toy central,' " he said
Organizers said there is also a great need every year for either gift cards or monetary donations to assist older kids or those with special needs.
Toys can be dropped off at any Violet Township Firehouse and many local businesses throughout the Pickerington/Violet Township area.
For locations, call the Violet Fire Department's "Toy Drive Hotline" at 614-382-5952 or look for the Big Red Boxes that are located throughout the area.
"They're everywhere," said Firefighter Jim Barber, referring to the red boxes.
He said the boxes can be found at a wide variety of locations, including Kroger, Max & Erma's, Chances 'R' and Pickerington schools, to name a few.
"We'll have over 40 boxes out. We had to build another 15 boxes this year," Barber said.
"This thing keeps going and going. It's a good thing, but it's also sad there is so much need out there."
Barber said he hopes the Toy Drive can build on the momentum it achieved last year.
"It was very, very successful last year," he said.
"We helped over 560 families last year, a lot of them from the Pickerington area," Barber said.
Girl Scouts drive-thru
For the second year in a row, the Violet Township firefighters are also partnering with Pickerington Girl Scout Troop 2140 for a one day "Drive-Thru Toy Drop-Off Event."
It will be held at Violet Township Fire Station 592, 8700 Refugee Road, Saturday, Dec. 7 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
"It's a great partnership once again. Last year the Girl Scouts did an unbelievable job," Eisel said.
Girl Scout leader Rhonda Van Arsdale said new and unwrapped gifts and gift cards are collected at the fire station by the Girl Scouts on that day.
"(People) don't have to get out of their cars," Van Arsdale said.
"They drive through one of the bays and the girls will collect the toys from them. We will have candy canes and elf tattoos for the kids," she said.
Van Arsdale said all the toys will go to families in the Pickerington Local School District.
"If there happen to be any remaining toys, they go to Maywood Mission in Lancaster," she said.
Van Arsdale said the event not only positively impacts the community by giving children in need a brighter holiday season, but it affects her scouts as well.
"The girls have a soft spot for the younger kids and love being able to support such a worthwhile cause," she said.
For more information about both the Holiday Toy Drive and Drive-Thru Toy Drop-Off events, see the Violet Township Firefighters Toy Drive on Facebook for regular updates, Barber said.
If you are a family in need, please contact Fairfield County Information and Referral at 740-687-0500 to apply for assistance.
Those wishing to help can also contact the Violet Township Fire Department during normal business hours at 614-837-4123.