Vernon Fire Department's Toys for Tikes tradition continues
By Steve Smith - Staff Writer
Vernon - posted Wed., Dec. 18, 2013
Hundreds of volunteers gathered at Station 441 on Nye Street in Vernon, as the 63rd annual Vernon Fire Department's Toys for Tikes drive had its “distribution night” on Dec. 16. The “Santa's helpers” were mostly firefighters and their families, and were each given a bag labeled with the ages and genders of a family. They then had to fill their assigned bags with the appropriate toys from large labeled bins, before loading the bags onto distribution trucks.
Diane Carpenter, who has coordinated the event for the past 27 years, said the drive served 310 children from 200 families who pre-registered with the Hockanum Valley Community Council. That number was down by 140 kids from last year.
“I'm not sure if that is because families moved away, or if kids aged out,” Carpenter said. “In the past, if that was the case, there were replacements.” Carpenter said the shorter holiday season may also have been a factor. Collections of the toys went very well, despite the smaller amount of shopping days between Thanksgiving and the drive's deadline, which was Dec. 14.
“We're in really good shape,” Carpenter said, amidst the organized chaos of the distribution. “Each child is going to have four toys, plus books, plus stuffed animals. The community really came through, especially since we only had a two-week drive.”
Carpenter said some thought was given to changing the date of the distribution, but there was some resistance to having it on a night other than a Monday. “Monday is tradition,” she said, adding that a switch was also made, by using Toys 'R' Us as the supplier for toys purchased with monetary donations, because Namco is no longer in the toy business, but a different supplier meant a different, shorter timeline for that part of the process.
“I think maybe we got better variety that we didn't have before,” Carpenter said. “It was maybe just a little bit trickier.”
For many of the volunteers, the holidays would not be complete without the tradition of the distribution night. “It's always a good feeling,” Carpenter said. “These guys love it. It's great to see the families.”
For more information, visit www.vernonfire.com.