ELYRIA — This year’s Not-Forgotten Box toy drive aims again to make the holiday season a bright and happy one for deserving families through its collection of toys and other items.
But the way in which families will receive that help is changing.
Gone is the traditional Christmas Castle set up in the gymnasium of the Elyria Salvation Army to which needy families come to receive toys and food.
This year’s drive will instead see families who sign up for assistance come to the agency on assigned dates just before Christmas to receive prepackaged amounts of toys, games and other items.
“We have all-new staff here this year, and they have seen this way work in the past elsewhere with much success,” Erica Garcia, the agency’s assistant program director said.
The new method of offering holiday help will be overseen by Majs. Robert and Alice Sears, who recently took over as directors of the Elyria Salvation Army from Capts. Paul and Sherry Pelletier, who served the Elyria agency for the past several years. The couple was recently reassigned to another Salvation Army post.
The Searses are coming to Elyria from the Salvation Army in the Painesville area, Garcia said.
The change comes as the agency prepares to have signup days next week for families in need. To qualify, households must meet eligibility criteria for income, proof of residency and proof of the number of children living in the household, Garcia said.
The Not-Forgotten Box, which is co-sponsored by The Chronicle-Telegram for its 53rd year, helped more than 1,050 families in 2010 through the generosity of people and businesses who donated 8,525 toys.
Collections dropped dramatically from 2009 when the effort took in more than 12,500 toys. Families typically receive a bag of groceries including a ham or turkey, along with toys and other gifts for children, according to Lucy Goldsmith, the Chronicle-Telegram’s classified supervisor.
“Everything will be the same, with the only difference being that we won’t have the Christmas Castle,” she said.
The Searses bring a solid business background to their positions with Salvation Army, Goldsmith said.
Goldsmith said that the Salvation Army/Not-Forgotten Box drives in Lorain and Medina last year were operated the way this year’s Elyria drive will be. “They found it was a lot easier to do it this way,” she said.
The 2010 drive was the first that saw the Not-Forgotten Box drive extended to Lorain, where collection boxes were set up by local businesses.
Despite a tough economy that continues to see many out of work, officials are again confident about the area’s unflagging generosity.
“We are always amazed at what Elyria does for its community,” Goldsmith said.
Families may sign up for the 2011 Not-Forgotten Box campaign 9 to 11:30 a.m. and 12:30 to 3 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at the Elyria Salvation Army on West Broad Street.
Anyone unable to stop by the agency on those days may register for help during an emergency make-up session 4 to 7 p.m. Nov. 1.