Dear Editor, the dawn of a new year offers the opportunity to reflect on the benevolence showered upon Project Self-Sufficiency during the 2020 Season of Hope Toy Drive.
During the autumn, the call was put out to a community already wracked by financial and health concerns from the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic that help was needed to provide a meaningful holiday season to thousands of local children and teens. From then on, hundreds of families, businesses, schools, organizations, churches, and individuals rose to the challenge. Each day brought a parade of donors carting thousands of new toys, gift cards and funds. Never have we witnessed such a manifestation of hope in action.
The need to maintain social distancing upended business as usual at the Season of Hope Toy Shop. Volunteers and patrons were not allowed inside the buildings, and every item, no matter how small, was thoroughly sanitized before being displayed. Instead of choosing toys for their own children, patrons waited safely outside the shop or in their cars while agency staff members thoughtfully and carefully selected gifts on their behalf. They were entertained by the performances of hundreds of talented singers and musicians who had previously uploaded recordings of themselves performing holiday music which were then shared on television screens and on the radio.
Despite operating on a remote schedule for most of the school year, more than 25 schools competed in the Stuff the Stocking contest, amassing thousands of toys and gift cards for their peers. We are indebted to these students, their families, and faculty members for their creativity and perseverance.
Local businesses spearheaded innovative toy drives, like Selective Insurance, which collected toys alongside the annual Build-a-Bike employee contest; Off Shore Marine, which enlisted the aid of area first responders and community organizations to gather items for the annual Stuff the Boat initiative; and Maxwell & Molly’s which donated enormous amounts of pet food and toys for animals in need.
Hundreds of new and used coats were collected and distributed to families thanks to the efforts of Project Self-Sufficiency Board members, Pass it Along, Subaru World of Newton, Onore Clothing, and many individual donors.
Sussex Technical School culinary arts students used their skills to bake thousands of cookies which were distributed to toy shop patrons.
We welcomed many new friends into the family of Season of Hope donors: Small businesses which donated toys despite their own struggles, civic organizations whose members saw a need and stepped up to help, and parishioners at area churches who banded together to donate to the toy drive despite the forced closure of their own houses of worship.
The United States Marine Corps Toys for Tots provided thousands of toys to the effort and the Newton Police Department monitored parking and kept everyone safe.
To the thousands of families who benefited from the Season of Hope Toy Shop this outpouring of generosity in such a perilous time means that parents in need were assured that this community genuinely cares about them and their children – even during a global pandemic. It means that we all live in a community where joy, hope and concern for each other can be found in abundance. And it means that Project Self-Sufficiency will be able to continue to offer a helping hand to individuals and families all year long. From the bottom of our full hearts, we thank you.
Wishing you a New Year filled with good health, joy, and gratitude.
Blake and Cathy Ellman, Season of Hope Toy Shop Co-Chairpersons
Deborah Berry-Toon, Executive Director, Project Self-Sufficiency