Schools collect Christmas toys

Published 11:02 pm Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Shawn Harris, a teacher at Creekside Elementary, holds a couple of toys donated after the school began collecting for Toys for Tots on Tuesday.

Shawn Harris, a teacher at Creekside Elementary, holds a couple of toys donated after the school began collecting for Toys for Tots on Tuesday.

For parents and other family members of Suffolk school students, supporting the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves’ annual Toy for Tots campaign is as easy as sending them off to class with a new toy for the collection box.

The city’s public schools have collection boxes mostly in the front-office areas, said Bethanne Bradshaw, school district spokeswoman.

While Suffolk Public Schools supports various charities throughout the year — including the Salvation Army, United Way of Hampton Roads and March of Dimes — students have a keener connection to Toys for Tots, according to Bradshaw.

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“The kids really like Toys for Tots, because they want to buy something they know they would like,” Bradshaw said.

Getting schools active in the campaign also encourages students to think about those less fortunate and appreciate what they have, she said.

“We support charities, because we are a major part of the community and (the) charities help students and families that we serve,” Bradshaw added.

“We want it to be a lesson in giving, to learn to look beyond your own self-satisfaction. Today’s young people are self-focused, and it’s just an opportunity to think of others.”

At Creekside Elementary School, the Student Council Association is driving the campaign, thereby getting the kids even more involved.

Teacher Shawn Harris, who sponsors Creekside’s SCA, said Wednesday the generosity of parents and others in the school community looked promising on what was only the second day of collections.

“We have about five pieces,” she said, “so I think we are going pretty well.”

Meanwhile, Nansemond-Suffolk Academy’s toy-collection efforts, plus its pet supplies drive for the Suffolk Humane Society, culminates in a “stuff-the-bus” event Dec. 12.

“From our oldest Saints to our youngest Saints, including facility and staff, it gets us all in the spirit of the holidays with the true meaning of the holidays,” NSA spokeswoman Ashley Greene said. “Our mission statement includes community service, and this is one of our direct examples (of that).”

Lower school students will be collecting winter coats for the Coats for Kids campaign through the New Year, Greene added.

John Woleben, Suffolk’s Toys for Tots coordinator and a busy man this time of year, said the efforts of schools have a significant impact on overall collections.

“All of the schools always do a wonderful job,” Woleben said, giving special mention to NSA’s stuff-the-bus effort, as the bus also delivers the toys, saving him the time and effort.

He also praised Suffolk Parks and Recreation for its help in picking up toys from the public schools.

Woleben said its Suffolk Corps Officer Jim Shiels reported to him the Salvation Army, which provides space at its Bank Street facility for toy distribution, anticipates an extra 1,000 toys will be needed this year.

“There are more children to serve this year than last year,” Woleben said. “Donations (to the school collections) will be greatly appreciated to assist with that.”

At public schools, guidance counselors can nominate students they feel could benefit from receiving a toy, Bradshaw said.

Isle of Wight City Public Schools spokeswoman Kenita Bowers confirmed Smithfield High and Carrollton Elementary schools would be collecting toys, adding she was awaiting confirmation on any other district schools involved.