Numerous Northeast Pennsylvania Groups Seek Donations, Volunteers To Make Season Merry
The holidays are a favorite time of year for many, but for certain families in need, the season can present unique challenges.
Some struggle to afford the necessities of day-to-day living, let alone to provide their children with gifts or other holiday traditions.
That’s where the community steps in. Anyone interested in helping can donate money or items to local causes or volunteer to make sure kids in need still enjoy a merry Christmas.
Toys for Tots
Toys for Tots accepts new, unwrapped toys and distributes an average 18 million toys to 7 million children in need each year.
The effort started in 1947 after Marine Corps Reserve Maj. Bill Hendricks’ wife, Diane, crafted a doll and asked him to deliver it to a group that would give it to a child in need. Hendricks couldn’t find such an agency, so his wife told him to start one.
That year, Hendricks and the Marines in his reserve unit collected and distributed an estimated 5,000 toys, kickstarting Toys for Tots. It launched as a national campaign the following year and was approved as an official mission of the Marine Corps Reserve in 1995.
As donations pour in, and others involved sort them by type and age-appropriateness.
The local Toy for Tots campaign provides for seven counties in Pennsylvania: Wyoming, northern Luzerne, Lackawanna, Sullivan, Susquehanna, Bradford and Tioga. Northeast Pennsylvania’s local campaign coordinator, Staff Sgt. Sonlord Jean, estimated it has 35,000 toys in the local warehouse and that the campaign helped approximately 22,000 kids last year.
Families interested in receiving help can fill out a request form at wyoming-pa.toysfortots.org. For more information, email WyomingT4T@usmc.mil.
Of all the good that he witnesses through Toys for Tots, Jean said seeing children so happy and thankful is his favorite part.
“To put a smile on a kid’s face,” he said, “that’s priceless.”
To help: Toy drop-off sites are in dozens of businesses and organizations around the area; to find one, visit wyoming-pa.toysfortots.org, where volunteers also can sign up or offer their organization as a drop-off site. Lackwanna County’s 2018 Festival of Trees display, which opens Friday, Dec. 14, in the Marketplace at Steamtown, 300 Lackawanna Ave., Scranton, also functions as a fundraiser for Toys for Tots.
Friends of the Poor and Catholic Social Services
Friends of the Poor and Catholic Social Services partner again this year to host “Christmas Gifts for Kids” in the Byron Center at University of Scranton. Parents of families in need usually can pick out three toys per child. This year’s distribution will take place Tuesday, Dec. 18.
To help: Donors can drop off toys at Friends of the Poor’s office at the Tony Domiano Center, 2300 Adams Ave., Scranton, or at Jackson Terrace Pantry, 148 Meridian Ave., Scranton, until Friday, Dec. 14. Volunteers also can help sort and distribute toys for the event; contact Friends of the Poor at 570-340-6086 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Christmas Holiday Bureau
Part of the Voluntary Action Center of Northeast Pennsylvania, the Christmas Holiday Bureau was established in 1950. Through the help of individuals, businesses, churches and schools, it helps an estimated 1,000 families each yearby providing gift cards for buying clothing, food, toys and other items to ensure that the holiday season is a special one. The group also welcomes volunteers to help schedule appointments and process gifts. Registration to receive gifts has passed.
To help: Monetary donations are accepted at the bureau, 829 Jefferson Ave., Scranton, and online at vacnepa.org. For more information, call 570-347-5616.
Adopt an Angel
Coordinated by Lackawanna County, this program gives gifts to children in foster care or who receive services from the Office of Children and Youth.
The program seeks sponsors to be matched with children who write letters to Santa about their holiday wishes. It accepts monetary donations, gift cards and unwrapped presents.
To help: Contact Gloria Liuzzo at 570-963-6781, ext. 1301, or Lisa Sohara at 570-963-6781, ext. 1188.
Catherine McAuley Center
This organization has helped care for homeless women and children in the area since 1984. By participating in its Adopt-A-Family program — which delivers presents to an estimated 2,000 people each year — individuals and organizations can help families gather what they need to celebrate the holidays. Donors receive a wish list with suggested gifts to give the adopted family. The registration period to receive has passed, but the center will hold a walk-through to give out other toy donations on Wednesday, Dec. 19, at 9:30 a.m. Families should bring photo ID, proof of address and income, and birth certificates for their kids.
To help: Call the Scranton office at 570-342-1342 or the Plymouth office at 570-779-2801.
United Neighborhood Centers of Northeastern Pennsylvania
The Community Services Department at UNC, 410 W. Olive St., Scranton, will turn into a temporary toy store for parents from families in need to pick out toys for their children. Volunteers always are welcome to help ensure that the toy store runs smoothly. UNC has other volunteer opportunities as well, such as Angel’s Attic for donated clothing. Families interested in receiving help can call Gus Fahey at 570-343-8835.
To help: To donate or volunteer, call the community services office at 570-343-8835.