Help children have a brighter Christmas

Published 4:53 pm Tuesday, December 1, 2020

With virtual learning and lockdowns, an opportunity is here to help local children end this hard year on a brighter note.

The Suffolk Sheriff’s Office is hosting its annual Operation Helping Hands Toy Drive. Workers from the office will stand from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Dec. 12 collecting donations in front of the Walmart at 1200 N. Main St. and 6259 College Drive.

Since 2014, the Suffolk Sheriff’s Office has collected toys to donate to Suffolk Elementary Schools. This year, all donations at the Main Street location will go to Elephant’s Fork Elementary School, and contributions from College Drive will go to Hillpoint Elementary School.

“In years past, people have been more than generous,” said Katie Jones, Suffolk Sheriff’s Office Community Engagement Coordinator. “I feel like with everything going on, the kids need it more this year than in previous years. We’re hoping for a big turnout this year.”

Those who want to participate can donate new and unwrapped toys for elementary school-aged children. In the past, folks have contributed various items, including books, puzzles, dolls, and bikes. Since the toys are going to the schools for distribution, no toy guns, including Nerf guns, are allowed.

The owner of UPS store 5885 off Centerbrooke Lane, Amy Eichelberger, donated enough books that each student at the elementary school will receive a new book along with a toy this Christmas. This donation is part of The UPS Store’s partnership with the Toys for Tots Literacy Program.

“We are very grateful that even though school is not meeting in person right now, they’ll have something new to read, too,” said Jones.

For those not comfortable going out to Walmart to contribute, there are other ways to make sure that kids will still have a good Christmas despite a turbulent year. They can contact the Sheriff’s Office to arrange a pickup or drop off alternative. Also, toys bought on Amazon can be directly shipped to the office for even less contact.

This year, distributing the toys will look different from past years, with students not back in the schools yet due to COVID-19. Usually, the sheriff, a few others from the office, and Santa make an appearance to drop off the toys. This year, the drop off process is still to be decided, but the schools already have a plan for distribution.

“We hope Santa can come, just to let kids know he’s still out there and out and about,” said Jones.

The Suffolk Sheriff’s Office has stayed faithful to this drive throughout the years, singing carols and having a good time despite standing through snow, rain and sleet. The office is prepared for whatever may come at them as they make sure kids get the chance at a good Christmas to end this rough year.