Dealership supports Toys campaign

Published 9:38 pm Wednesday, December 5, 2012

On Wednesday, Eley Duke and Suffolk Toys for Tots coordinator John Woleben celebrate the mountain of toys community members have dropped off at Duke Automotive. Woleben got a special surprise when Duke handed over a $500 check to buy toys in bulk.

Not to say he looked particularly gloomy beforehand, but a smile spread instantly across Suffolk Toys for Tots coordinator John Woleben’s face when a car salesman handed him a $500 check on Wednesday.

“It was down to the last $1,000, and that’s really going help,” remarked Woleben outside Duke Automotive after dealership owner Eley Duke drew the check from his pocket.

Something else at Duke that pleased Woleben Wednesday was a Chevy Silverado parked on the showroom floor.

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The back of the truck is gradually filling up with toys dropped off by generous locals. It’s the third year the dealership has been a collection point for the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve campaign that helps makes sure children don’t go without a gift under the tree at Christmas.

“People love to take pictures (of themselves placing toys in the back of the Silverado) and put them on Facebook,” Duke said.

Duke’s 2011 toy tally was 548, and this year’s goal is to top 600, he added. Duke is apparently in gentlemanly competition with Starr Motors down the road to collect the most toys.

One of the less-obvious reasons Woleben was so happy to receive a $500 check toward the campaign is that with cash as opposed to toy donations, he can go shopping at toy wholesalers and get a whole lot more bang for his buck — and benefit many more children.

“It just blew me away, it really did,” he said.

Duke said that last year, the Silverado’s cab had to be utilized after the back started overflowing. “We want to try to get as many toys as we can,” he said.

Chevy’s Giving More of a few years ago was the original impetus for the dealership to get involved in collecting toys for needy children, Duke said.

Under the now-discontinued campaign, dealers could choose to support either their local foodbank or the Toys for Tots drive, he said.

“We had a real hard time deciding which one,” he added. Duke went with the foodbank, but employees starting collecting toys all the same.

“We collected over 400 toys that year and over 1,600 pounds of food,” he said. “The next year, Chevrolet decided not to do that program, but we decided to continue it.”

Woleben gets around from one Toy for Tots event to another in a snappy white van, emblazoned with the campaign’s distinctive red train logo, after Duke last year decided to furnish it and renewed the commitment this year.

Woleben he will continue collecting toys through Dec. 14.