The Violet Township Fire Department this week launched an annual toy drive aimed at ensuring that all local children receive gifts this holiday season.

The Violet Township Fire Department this week launched an annual toy drive aimed at ensuring that all local children receive gifts this holiday season.

For the 23rd consecutive year, members of the Violet Township Fire Department and Violet Township Firefighters Local 3558 are teaming up on a toy drive for children and families in the township and throughout Canal Winchester, Fairfield and Licking counties.

The drive began Nov. 25 and will extend through Dec. 21. Throughout that time, the fire department, area businesses and churches, Maywood Mission and Fairfield County Job and Family Services are hoping to collect donations of new, unwrapped toys, bicycles, clothes and gift cards to distribute to children and families in need.

Last year, more than 30 businesses participated, and the VTFD collected and distributed more than 3,000 toys. Bicycles, TVs, DVD players, iPods and more than $1,600 in gift certificates also were distributed.

"We're hoping to exceed that this year," said VTFD Lt. Gregg Goodwin, who has organized the toy drive the past five years. "I think the need is going to be higher this year than it was last year.

"We want new gifts that are not wrapped, gift certificates and monetary donations," he said. "We'll take any (new) toys. It doesn't have to be a high-dollar item."

Goodwin said more than 100 families already have registered to receive gifts this holiday season. The fire department and Fairfield County Information and Referral continues to take registrations. Goodwin hopes people who need help won't hesitate to ask.

"We don't want people to wait until the last minute," he said. "There a chance if you wait that long, we just won't be able to help you."

Those living in Fairfield County who need help can call Fairfield County Information and Referral at 211. Anyone living inside or outside the county also can call the agency at (740) 687-0500.

"We always help Violet Township first, and we work with the Pickerington Local School District, who is working with Fairfield County Information and Referral, to identify kids in need," Goodwin said. "Closer to Christmas, we go throughout all of Fairfield County, some parts of Licking County and some parts of Canal Winchester."

Donated items can be dropped off at any Violet Township fire station. They are located at 8700 Refugee Road, 21 Lockville Road and 2365 Taylor Park Drive.

There also will be dropoff locations at designated businesses throughout the community. Those businesses can be identified by signs posted outside their buildings that feature the VTFD holiday logo. The logo includes a fire department crest with candy cane, a wrapped gift in the center and a Santa Claus hat.

Prospective donors can get more information by calling the VTFD Toy Drive Hotline at (614) 382-5952, or by visiting the Violet Township Firefighters Toy Drive on Facebook.

"We enjoy helping the families out and the kids out," Goodwin said. "This is really a positive thing we do, and all the guys really enjoy doing this."