Work under way to provide toys for Suffolk tots

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Suffolk News-Herald

Here it is almost Thanksgiving and Santa and the Elves are probably putting the finishing touches to all the toys he’s expected to deliver Christmas Eve. Santa plans to visit millions of children around the world, but unfortunately there will be some who will not receive a visit or toys.

In Suffolk, Capt. David May of Suffolk’s Salvation Army, Leonard Horton, director of Suffolk’s Social Services, and William E. Ashley Jr., coordinator of the Toys for Tots program, are all working hard with a large number of other volunteers to make sure no child is left out at Christmas.

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This is the first year, in fact, that the Salvation Army and social services have coordinated their missions to serve the youth of Suffolk in the Toys for Tots Campaign. By working together, they will reach more than 1,686 local children, providing them with Christmas dolls, toys, and bears.

All those toys have been ordered at a total of almost $40,000. That money is paid each year to toy suppliers like Namco, Oscars, and Mercy USA, who will deliver this year toys for 902 girls and 784 boys.

Toys have already been delivered to a storage facility to be distributed to parents on Dec. 16. Social services and the Salvation Army will contact by mail the parents of children selected to receive the gifts.

Funding to pay for all those items comes through donations to the Suffolk News-Herald’s &uot;Cheer Fund&uot; campaign that runs through November and December and sometimes into January.

Local citizens, businesses, churches, clubs and civic groups, and schools are all instrumental in contributing to the Cheer Fund. These &uot;Santa’s Helpers&uot; realize that without their help, Santa may not be able to visit each child in Suffolk.

Any small gift is of great benefit to the Cheer Fund. It takes the small gifts as well as the large to amass $40,000. Last year, for instance, three young children had performed various tasks for their neighbors to earn funds to give to the Cheer Fund. Another child emptied out a piggy bank so that other less fortunate children would have a toy.

As for the larger gifts, there are many industries and businesses in Suffolk who annually help pay for the toys. Ciba, for instance, has donated $1,000 and the employees there, headed by Regina Copeland and Clayton Andrews, plan to donate a large number of toys in response to a challenge issued by last year’s team of Santa’s Helpers at Ciba. That group of enterprising folks gave the $1,000 plus 50 new bicycles and helmets and other toys as well.

Speaking of Santa’s Helpers, this city is filled with unsung heroes who step forward to help as a volunteer for the toy campaign.

Take Lakita Frazier, for instance. She serves as the Director of the Suffolk Department of Parks and Recreation and with help from an assistant, Renee Spratley; Frazier is working hard to stage a &uot;Lunch with Santa&uot; event for the children of Suffolk.

&uot;The Department of Parks and Recreation is excited about assisting the News-Herald’s Cheer Fund by sponsoring the annual Lunch with Santa,&uot; said Frazier. &uot;Children eat for free by donating a new unwrapped toy and parents may eat for $3. Reservation are required. We are very excited to be able to help with this program to provide toys to children that are less fortunate than others.&uot;

Every year Renee Spratley, recreation center director, spearheads

the event and does a wonderful job. Over the last three years, the event has grown to provide hundreds of toys to be donated to the Cheer Fund.&uot;

This event is always a big day for the kids and this year’s lunch will take place from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Northern Shores Recreation Center on Respass Beach Road just off College Drive. The luncheon is sponsored by Chick-Fil-A and there will be games, crafts and storytelling by Mrs. S. Claus and, of course, Santa will also be on hand. There will also be a face painter there to decorate faces for the holidays, and all the toys brought to the luncheon will be added to the purchased toys for distribution.

Distribution brings up a couple more unsung heroes in Suffolk. Charles Pond is well-known for his philanthropic work in this city and he has generously donated a portion of his business, Nansemond Cold Storage, to store the toys until distribution day.

S.L. Nussbaum Realty Company’s Jack Bissett and Bill Rowland are also deserving of thanks for allowing Santa’s Helpers to use one of their properties, the vacant building between Belk and Farm Fresh, as a distribution center.

It takes many, many good hearted and compassionate people to put the Cheer Fund drive over the top. This year, citizens of Suffolk have faced many tribulations, but just like our most recent, Hurricane Isabel, we have come through for each other. Now, it’s time to come through for the less fortunate children of Suffolk.

To make a contribution to the Cheer Fund, mail checks to the Suffolk News-Herald Cheer Fund, PO Box 1220, Suffolk, 23434, or bring contributions to 130 South Saratoga Street. When possible, photographs for publication will be taken with contributors.