Thanks to efforts like Toys for Happiness and Toys for Tots, thousands of toys have been donated to give to children in York County this holiday season. But exactly how does a toy get from that donation box to the home of a child who wants it so much?
It takes a small army of local volunteers, said Trina Ricks, who is in her second year as volunteer coordinator for the Sleigh Bell Network.
The Sleigh Bell Network, coordinated by the United Way of York County, brings together the efforts of several community organizations – The Herald’s Empty Stocking Fund, Toys for Happiness, Toys for Tots, the Salvation Army and Second Harvest Food Bank.
Their goal: Make sure children in York, Chester and Lancaster counties have gifts under the Christmas tree – and their families have food on the table.
“You basically go shopping for each individual child so you have an opportunity to be one of Santa’s helpers,” Ricks said.
Volunteers work out of the Sleigh Bell Network’s distribution center, a large space where donated toys are organized by age level. They get empty bags with lists of what children have requested, then fill them with toys. Parents then come to pick up those bags before Christmas.
“You see them get so excited,” Ricks said of the volunteers. “They play with the toys, and their selecting becomes very careful because they want to pick the best possible gifts.”
One of those volunteers is Raquel Anderson of Rock Hill, who has been helping out with the Sleigh Bell Network for four years, both in the warehouse and as an interpreter for Spanish-speaking families who apply for assistance.
“It’s very rewarding to see how the community comes through every year,” she said.
For Anderson, activities like this are what this season is all about.
“I’ve gotten to that age now where you wonder why you’re giving each other gifts, when it should all really be for the kids,” she said.
Every minute of time a person gives can make a difference, Anderson said. Even someone who fills just one bag has made a difference for a child.
Both Anderson and Ricks said this year’s toy stash is still lacking in gifts for older children, such as sporting equipment, cosmetics and other items children aged 9 to 14 might enjoy.
Rachel Southmayd • 803-329-4072