Toys for Tots in full gear

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Suffolk News-Herald

It’s tough to follow in the footsteps of a legend, but John M. Woleben is not letting that get in the way of fulfilling his mission to make sure that every child in Suffolk has a merry Christmas.

Woleben, who works for the insurance firm of Councill Financial Concepts and is a resident of the Sleepy Lakes Neighborhood in Suffolk, assumed the reins of the Suffolk Toys for Tots campaign this year.

Email newsletter signup

As coordinator, Woleben is responsible for assembling and organizing dozens of volunteers, buying toys for 1,600 children, arranging warehouse space, packaging and delivery, and he’s off to a flying start.

Last week Woleben, assisted by former coordinator William Ashley, the person who has personified Toys for Tots in Suffolk for more than 40 years, met with their various committees as the holiday season began to kick into gear.

The venerable campaign will have a new look this year, as well as a new chairman, as the 2004 campaign marks the local program’s first as an affiliate of the national Marine Corps Toys for Tots campaign.

Woleben was quick to note that volunteers, donors and the families served are not likely to notice any difference, other than perhaps a greater presence as the local program draws on the vast resources of the Marine Corps. He also noted that all donations collected by the local program would continue to go to Suffolk children.

&uot;They have bombarded us with signs and posters,&uot; Woleben said, noting that residents are likely to be seeing those around town.

Woleben noted that he has received phone calls from as far away as Edenton based on the local program’s presence on the Marine Corps Toys for Tots Web site.

Woleben, like Ashley, is a member of the South Hampton Roads Association of Financial Advisors (formerly Portsmouth-Chesapeake-Suffolk Life Underwriters) which has been involved with Toys for Tots in Suffolk since its inception. Dozens of SHRAFA members will be getting their hands dirty working on the campaign. The will be joined by countless others from churches, local industries, the Department of Parks and Recreation and the community at large who come together each year to make Toys for Tots a success.

Toys costing more than $40,000 from manufacturers such as Namco, Mercy and Oscars, have already been purchased and will be delivered to the Chorey Building on West Washington Street, the Toys for Tots headquarters again this year, on Dec. 3. There, they will be separated by age group and prepared for delivery to homes.

Clients for Toys for Tots are supplied by the Suffolk Department of Social Services and the Salvation Army. Social Services is no longer accepting applications for participation, but Ashley noted that the Salvation Army will accept applications up until nearly Christmas Day. You can contact the Salvation Army for more information at 539-5201.

Once again this year the Toys for Tots program will be fully funded by the Suffolk Cheer Fund. The Cheer Fund’s goal this year is $40,000. The first $1,000 donation has already been made by the Richard Bennett Trust.

To donate to the Cheer Fund, make checks payable and send to:

Suffolk Cheer Fund

C/o Suffolk News-Herald

P.O. Box 1220

Suffolk, Va. 23439.

Donations can also be hand delivered to the News-Herald office at 130 S. Saratoga Street, Suffolk. Clubs and organizations wishing to donate should contact managing editor Luefras Robinson at 934-9613, or to arrange to receive publicity for their club for making a donation.