The volunteers and donors didn’t think much about their service. To them, it’s just one way to help out during the holidays — a holiday that is meant for giving back — at least according to Elyria resident Tara Goutschling, who has been donating to the cause since her daughter, now 11, was born.
“I wanted to teach them the importance of giving back,” said Goutschling, who brings her daughter, Samantha, and 9-year-old son, Spencer, to help at The Chronicle each Christmas season.
The Not-Forgotten Box began 54 years ago with one goal — to help struggling families with children who may not have received a Christmas gift otherwise during Christmas.
About 1,100 children are signed up through the Salvation Army’s assistance program to receive the donated toys. The deadline to sign up was in October.
Kenneth Blandell was one of those children years ago.
Now the 23-year-old works with his mother, Rebecca Townsend, at her business, the Air Brush Lady. Business is OK, Blandell said, but he still remembers a time when, if not for the Not-Forgotten Box, he wouldn’t have had much at Christmas.
“There were some years that we wouldn’t have had presents if we hadn’t had the Not-Forgotten Box,” he said.
So, because Blandell and his mother can give back to the community now, they did.
With 50 stockings donated by White’s Auto Care, Blandell and Townsend gave each child who donated a toy their own personalized stocking, complete with custom airbrushing.
“It’s nice that we can give back now,” Blandell said.
Four dozen cookies also were donated by Invest Elyria during Saturday’s collection, which ran 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Members of the Midview High School Air Force Junior ROTC were on hand to sort through and pack the donations.
Anthony Kitson, an aspiring Marine and member of the Junior ROTC program, organized other members to come to The Chronicle as part of a community service project.
“I picked this because it shows that there are kids that help in the community, and we can help (the children) out,” he said.
Kitson, a junior, is one of 115 Midview students who are part of the Junior ROTC program — a program that’s heavily involved in the community, said Col. Ralph Swann, the group’s leader.
Swann, a senior aerospace science instructor, said groups, including the Junior ROTC, are on the chopping block unless a special levy is passed this school year. The school not only hurts, but so does the community, he said.
“Where do you want your kids involved? To me, those are things that help kids and point them in positive directions,” Swann said.
Other groups, including the Living Word Church, also came out, donating 50 toys to the drive. Youth minister Wendy Cummings said donating toys is part of “showing Christ” to the children in her youth group and teaching them that they can help.
“Yes, some of our kids are lower income,” Cummings said. “But we’re teaching them that it’s better to give than receive.”
Tyrone Crockett, an eighth-grade student at Longfellow Middle School and member of the Living Word Church’s youth ministry, said he was happy to be involved. Crockett chose a football and other items to donate Saturday.
“I think it’s good,” he said. “I wanted to help the kids that don’t have parents that are in orphanages or foster homes.”
The group also donated turkeys during Thanksgiving and has been collecting food since April. Non-perishable food items also are being collected at The Chronicle.
At 80 years old, Arlene Morrison, an avid sewer and Harley-Davidson rider, brought handmade toys that she created. Morrison donated last year, but she took the extra time to sew a teddy bear, dog and cat stuffed animals for the drive.
“I just like to stay busy,” she said, adding that each toy took less than a day to make.
So far, the Not-Forgotten Box has collected 3,261 toys. The goal is to collect 8,000 toys by Friday.
Toys may be dropped off 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday at the newspaper. Cash donations are also accepted. Make checks out to the Not-Forgotten Box and mail or drop them off at 225 East Ave., Elyria, OH 44035.