Goodfellows: Line for gifts a block long at Toys for Tots open house
December 16, 2012 10:00 AM
Volunteers, from left, Jayna Walters, 26, of Dormont, Brendan Orient, 23, of Mt. Lebanon and Alex Dziamniski, 23, of Whitehall sort toys Friday at the Toys for Tots open house in the Strip District.
By Jon Schmitz Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The warehouse was filled with generosity and gratitude.
And toys. Thousands and thousands of toys, stacked nearly to the rafters.
On Friday, dozens of volunteers, assisted by Marines dressed in their civvies, scurried about, piling the toys into large, white plastic bags and running them out to grateful parents at the annual Toys for Tots open house.
On Christmas, the dolls, stuffed animals, puzzles, board games, miniature cars and trucks, and bicycles will widen and brighten the eyes of tens of thousands of children who otherwise might have done without.
"They're going to be so excited. This is going to be the happiest Christmas ever," said Kellee Turner of Wilkinsburg, an unemployed single mom with an 8-year-old son and 4-year-old daughter who are in for a special surprise that morning.
Angela Harsh of McKees Rocks said she served six years in the Army, including two tours in Iraq, before an injury forced her out of the service in 2010. Currently unemployed, she has a daughter who will be 1 on New Year's Eve and an 8-year-old son. Among the items she received was a big pink stuffed dog, a toy helicopter, a Radio Flyer Scoot 'N Zoom and Hot Wheels cars.
Her message to you: "It's a big helping hand. Thank you so much for helping people who need it."
The two-day open house was made possible in part by generous Pittsburgh Post-Gazette readers who donate to the Goodfellows Fund. Since 1947, the mission of Goodfellows has been to ensure that no child misses out on the joy of gifts under the tree on Christmas morning.
"We've had a lot of people donate and a lot of people volunteer," said the campaign coordinator, Marine Staff Sgt. James Lawracy of Military Police Company Bravo, based in North Versailles. "They've made it a successful 2012 for all the families and children."
The atmosphere at the event, held in donated warehouse space at Guardian Storage Solutions in the Strip District, was festive and jovial. The need was palpable, as the line of parents stretched out the door and down Liberty Avenue for more than a block.
Ms. Turner's cousin, Brittanie Williams of Wilkinsburg, recently laid off from her hospital job and a first-time visitor to the event, said she was surprised at the number and quality of toys she received for her 6-year-old son and 4-year-old daughter.
"I wasn't expecting anything but a helping hand," she said. "I have a Christmas baby [her son turns 7 on Wednesday] and I thought I wasn't going to be able to do anything."
Myisha Rose of Wilkinsburg, a social work student at Community College of Allegheny County who works at a department store, said money is tight for her right now. Toys for Tots came through for her three children, who range in age from 7 to 12. She got building blocks, a science experiment kit, a Scrabble Boggle game and other items. She wasn't expecting it but was one of several lucky parents to receive a bicycle as well.
"I'm very grateful and thankful," she said. "It'll put smiles on my kids' faces on Christmas morning. Maybe I can be in a position next year to give back."
Donations to Goodfellows are tax deductible and can be made using the coupon accompanying this story or online at www.post-gazette.com/goodfellows. Part of this holiday tradition is publication of all donors' names in the newspaper.
Ms. Turner had this to say before she rolled her children's special surprise from the warehouse:
"This is definitely a blessing. Thank God for the Marines and everybody who has a heart."