Toy shop to return for needy families

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McDONOUGH — Officials with Connecting Henry Inc. are gearing up for their annual Community Cares Toy Shop event Dec. 6-8.

In the coming weeks, volunteers and organizations will be collecting money and toys to outfit the shop with Christmas gifts for hundreds of needy children in Henry County.

Connecting Henry is the McDonough-based affiliate of the Georgia Family Connection Partnership Inc. It campaigns each year to help provide Christmas gifts to the less fortunate.

The nonprofit’s efforts, revamped last year to be more inclusive of community donors and volunteers, have been described as a “Christmas for the community, by the community.”

Daryl Dotschay, the coordinated services director for Connecting Henry, said the program was designed to better meet increasing needs in the area as resources have grown thin over the years.

The organization took on the endeavor a dozen years ago and has seen an ebb and flow in need.

“We’re starting to see an increase in a lot of first-time families,” Dotschay said. “At the toy shop, these parents will be able to select books or gifts for their children.”

Dotschay said the nonprofit is anticipating more than 1,200 children this year, up from 850 served in 2011. It means that the organization will need many more volunteers and donors.

Susan Crumbley is community relations coordinator for Connecting Henry. She said the program has acquired warehouse space and is putting toy donation boxes in all county buildings and other government buildings throughout Henry County.

However, there remains the need to fill the volunteer and sponsorship rosters.

“In this challenging year, we’re looking for many more sponsors,” said Crumbley.

The Central Georgia EMC Foundation Board is a perennial sponsor of the Christmas for the needy program. This month, the board awarded the project a $4,000 grant.

“This is a great example of a worthy organization within our community that can benefit from the Operation Round Up program,” said Lynne Tanner, chairwoman for the Foundation Board. “Of course, none of it would be possible without the generosity of all our participating members who volunteer to have their electric bills rounded up each month.”

They are looking for donations of toys, money and gift cards as well as volunteers for different positions. She said people are needed to help in every aspect of the campaign — from interviewing potential client families to decorating the toy collection boxes to building the toy shop set to wrapping gifts.

 “The goal of this event is to provide qualified residents of Henry County access to community resources and a chance to experience Christmas shopping as a family,” said Crumbley.

Crumbley said volunteers also get gratification from the annual service project.

“Last year’s program was a huge success, thanks in part to the generosity of donors and volunteers who made a difference in the lives of more than 850 Henry County children,” she said. “We’re expecting more this year because we’ve increased the ages from birth to 16. Last year, it was birth to 12.”

Dotschay said the change addresses an under-served demographic of young people.

“Last year, we recognized that several of the families that came in did have older children and we didn’t have anywhere to send them,” Dotschay said. “We felt like it was something we needed to take on.”

The organization plans to raise additional funds to help purchase specialty gift cards for teens that can be used entertainment venues and at electronic and retail stores.

Interviews for needy families will begin at the end of the month.

Families with last names beginning with the letters A-H may register Oct. 31. Families whose names begin with letters I-P may register Nov. 1. Registration is Nov. 5 for names beginning with Q-Z. Open registration days are Nov. 7-9.

All interviews will be from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. at Heritage Park’s Extension Office, Meeting Room B at 97 Lake Dow Road in McDonough. No appointments are necessary.

Collection boxes will be placed in strategic locations in county offices and buildings, as well as in various city and municipal buildings. Toys collected will stay in Henry County and go to needy children for Christmas.

Monetary and gift card donations may be sent to Connecting Henry at 66 Veterans Drive, McDonough, Ga 30253. Donations may also be made at Volunteers can also sign-up for the Community Cares Toy Shop at that web site.

“Last year, there were more than 700 volunteers over three days at the toy shop,” said Dotschay. “People really stepped up.”

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