August 22, 2014

Elyria
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Time’s running out for toy donations


It’s the last day to give to Not-Forgotten Box

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JASON MILLER / CHRONICLE
Students pose in front of a well they created at Firelands Elementary School to collect toys for the Not-Forgotten Box. From left are Phillip Saylor, Grace Habeck, Sean Lipscomb, Brittany Saylor, Ryan Ortner, Isaac Sultzer and Alex Steindl.

ELYRIA — If you get enough givers bubbling up in the community, sooner or later you have to build something that holds all the gifts.

That’s what staff and students at Firelands Elementary learned this past month, eventually settling on the perfect receptacle — a well — to hold the hundreds of toys they donated for The Chronicle-Telegram’s Not-Forgotten Box. 

“It helped the kids get really excited about it,” said Valerie Schuster, a Firelands Elementary counselor who helped organize the toy drive. “It was made of wood … but made to look like a real well.”

It was rife with symbolism: that inexhaustible wellspring of giving, a deed well done, tapping into the inner giver, wishes coming true, and so forth.

It was this last one — “Wishes do come true” — that became the theme for the toy drive that inspired staff, students and families of Firelands Elementary to donate hundreds of gifts for the Not-Forgotten Box.  

The school’s Family Support Team, a group of seven staff members and a community member, spearheaded the toy collection from Dec. 10 to 14. The stage inside the elementary school was decorated with the well as a centerpiece of sorts, and throughout the week people dropped off toys for the Not-Forgotten Box. 

At a choir performance one night last week, the students’ families were reminded about the toy drive when they saw the well and the many toys that had already been collected. 

“People were very generous,” Schuster said. “There were a lot of toys. When the kids would bring things in, they’d put it in the well.”

Firelands Elementary staff and students have been longtime supporters of the Not-Forgotten Box, and their sizable donation to this year’s batch of toys helped raise the tally to more than 7,700 items donated from dozens of organizations and people throughout the community. 

Other organizations include the Lorain County Deputies Association. The vice President John Steenstra and others took it upon themselves to drop off a few boxes of toys to the Not-Forgotten Box.

Steenstra said deputies are often gaining firsthand accounts of the crippling effects of poverty, whether it’s in homes where a parent loses a job or homes where a parent never had a job.

Either way, the children feel the effects.

“There’s no money coming into some houses,” Steenstra said. “When people aren’t making money like they used to — both men and women — they get stressed. But the kids shouldn’t have to go without.”

Members of the deputies association started a toy drive this past month, collecting dozens of toys that deputies could take out on the road with them and then donate to children whose homes they were called to.

Maybe the call was domestic violence, maybe it was drugs. Either way, the children in the house would usually be looking at a bleak Christmas.

“It was up to the deputies to decide who to give the toys to,” Steenstra said, recalling some homes where the only gift on the table was a carton of cigarettes from mom to dad.  “Some kids, you walk in their house and you know they’re getting nothing for Christmas.”

The toys that the deputies give away on the road — a program separate from the Not-Forgotten Box — is  a way to help reshape a child’s view of law enforcement, Steenstra said.

“Parents routinely say the same things to their kids if they see us in a restaurant,” said Steenstra, a sheriff’s deputy. “They say, ‘If you’re not good, this guy is going to take you to jail.’ ”

This year, not all the toys from the sheriff’s association were passed out, so the remainder was donated to the Not-Forgotten Box on Monday.

“We’re all fortunate that we have jobs,” Steenstra said. “Hopefully this helps people (who don’t).”

Today is the last day to donate to The Chronicle’s Not-Forgotten Box.

Contact Shawn Foucher at 329-7197 or sfoucher@chroniclet.com.