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Giving hearts: Reynoldsburg collecting toys for children
When Mary Burcham's first of four children started kindergarten at Herbert Mills Elementary in 1989, she noticed something that resonated with her.
"I noticed that there were many kids without warm coats in the winter," she said.
A few years later at a fire safety session in school, Burcham began discussing with Lt. Mike Shirey with the Truro Township Fire Department about the needs of Reynoldsburg's children.
"Truro had been receiving toys at their firehouse and was sending them on to Columbus to their annual Toys-for-Tots program," said Burcham, who serves as a Reynoldsburg school board member and the assistant to the safety/service director and the director of engineering for the city of Reynoldsburg. "We decided that we wanted the toys collected from our residents to go to Reynoldsburg kids."
Since then, the two have accepted donations for the Reynoldsburg Toys for Kids program.
"The bottom line is that we are devoted to making sure that every Reynoldsburg child that we are aware of has the opportunity to celebrate Christmas," Burcham said.
Times are hard, though, and with organizations' tightening their budgets and other sources of donations dropping off, Burcham and Shirey fear they will not receive the donations that they have in years past.
On average, the program serves about 300 students each year, and the number is growing, Burcham said.
"As the sponsors for this toy drive, we find that we are in need and are seeking donations from our community to assist us in ensuring that the children in Reynoldsburg will have presents to open on Christmas morning," Burcham said.
Children can be referred by any person who has knowledge of the need, but most are referred by parents or school personnel, Burcham said.
School-aged children are assessed as being eligible if they meet the criteria for the federal Free and Reduced Lunch program. Each elementary school will make a list of its needy students and collect toys at the annual shopping event that is held after Burcham and the Truro Township Fire Department collect the toys.
Donations of new or gently used toys of all kinds are accepted at Reynoldsburg City Hall between the hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. and at the Livingston Avenue and Main Street Truro Township fire stations during all hours of the day or night.
Monetary donations and gift certificates also will be accepted. The money is used to purchase gifts for the older children, Burcham said.
The group also is collecting coats, hats, mittens, socks and scarves.
Thanks to organizations in the Reynoldsburg area, some toys already have been pledged.
For the past three years, the Reynoldsburg/Pickerington Rotary Club has adopted some of the teenagers on Burcham's list.
"This year, they have pledged to adopt 48 teens in Reynoldsburg," she said.
A local Red Hat Club also has pledged to adopt several teenagers, she said.
"This is very helpful as teenagers are typically a little trickier to collect donations for," she said. "I am very grateful for all help that we receive."
Parkview Presbyterian Church plans to donate Boxes of Love to many of the smaller children, and Burcham said she has received numerous donations from Reynoldsburg City and Schools officials and employees.
"They are very giving people," Burcham said.
On Dec. 16, Burcham will bring all the toys for the kids to city hall, where she says the fun begins.
"I will sort through everything and make stacks for each child and get them ready for wrapping," she said. "The staff here always helps me with getting everything all wrapped up and ready to be picked up. I usually distribute from here a few days before the holiday itself."
For more information, contact Burcham or Shirey at (614) 322-6840 or (614) 204-6634.
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