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Annual Christmas Toy Drive kicks off

Employees of Taylor Made load their donated collection boxes into the ambulance being used for the Salvation Army of Fulton County 2020 Christmas Toy Drive. (The Leader-Herald/Briana O'Hara)

GLOVERSVILLE — Donations are needed more than ever this year for the Christmas Toy Drive as the need has more than doubled this year due to the impacts of COVID-19.

Ryan Lorey, of Fulton County Area News and coordinator, kicked off the Fulton and Montgomery County 2020 Christmas Toy Drive on Wednesday at Taylor Made, making this the fourth annual toy drive on behalf of the Salvation Army of Fulton County to collect new, unwrapped toys and other items for children in need.

“The need this year, I’m told today, is up two-thirds increase over the same time last year, as of today. The need is up and we’re going to have to collect as many toys as we can because there’s a lot of people who need help for Christmas. COVID-19 was terrible, so a two-thirds increase of a need is tremendous,” Lorey said.

Lorey said he started the toy drive after the Salvation Army reached out to Toys for Tots for help.

“At the time, I was with Toys for Tots and they cover a 14-county area. And the Salvation Army at the time reached out to us at Toys for Tots and they said they needed help,” Lorey said. “So, we gave them 500 toys, and it didn’t even touch what they needed. So the following year I ended up starting a local toy drive.”

The 2020 Christmas Toy Drive kicked off on Wednesday. Shown are Taylor Made employees in which they donated the collection boxes shown. Also pictured is Erie Canal Princess Sydney Arminio, left, Miss Erie Canal Alexis Houser, David Lavergne, general manager of the Empire Ambulance Service with his daughter Skyler Magee, Derina Lavergne and Ricky Parker, station manager of EAS Clifton Park location, right. (The Leader-Herald/Briana O'Hara)

The toy drive is set up similar to Toys for Tots. The collection boxes and a supply of posters are donated annually from Taylor Made and are stored at the former ambulance service building. Deploying the collection boxes this year is Empire Ambulance Service.

David Lavergne, general manager of Empire Ambulance Service said he’d like to assist Lorey and the Salvation Army.

“Anything that has to do with children, I fully support and endorse,” Lavergne said.

Those collection boxes get distributed to any interested businesses, schools and organizations across Fulton and Montgomery Counties to collect new unwrapped toys. In 2019, Lorey said just over 50 locations participated in the toy drive, and hopes to see that many participate again this year. However, some businesses have shut down due to the impacts of COVID-19, so the number of participants this year is unclear. Lorey said so far 20 businesses have been in contact with him, and is hoping to hear from some more.

“This year, we expect hopefully, the same number, but it’s hard to say right now because of COVID-19, some places aren’t in business anymore, some places are just gone,” Lorey said.

The Salvation Army accepts applications from families seeking holiday support each year beginning in October. Families who qualify for assistance receive a meal kit with a full Christmas dinner to serve the entire family and at least three toys or gift items for each child.

A wish list for each child is created and turned into Angel Tags that are distributed to local businesses and organizations where community members may take a tag and purchase the requested gifts for the individual child before dropping them off with the tag at a collection box.

“They have individual kids signed up through the Angel Tags program. We know how old that kid is, what they might be interested in, what kind of cartoon characters the kid might like, what size pajamas they might need and what other things they might need — hats, mittens, coats,” Lorey said. “The things written on these Angel Tags sometimes break your heart. These kids aren’t asking for toys, they want coats, they want mittens, they want stuff to keep warm with, they want Power Puff Girls pajamas, or they want Power Ranger pajamas.”

The Salvation Army will get an Angel Tag that goes on a Christmas Tree, and for every kid that is signed up, it will have a first name that includes it will their age, clothing size and what they want for Christmas, Lorey said.

“Last year we ended up with over a couple hundred tags. And what normally happens is Walmart will host a Christmas tree by customer service and all these tags will go on the tree,”

He said customers can come grab a tag off the tree, they can immediately go shopping for the items on the child Angel Tag. They can buy the items on the Angel Tag, pay for it, the tag gets stapled to the shopping bag and it goes back to customer service to go into the collection box for pick-up.

“It’s a much more direct giving situation,” Lorey said. “It’s a two-county thing and it’s local.”

If any Fulton or Montgomery County businesses, schools or organizations would like to host a collection box this year, contact Lorey on the Fulton County Area News Facebook page or at (518) 774-0627, or contact Miss Erie Canal Alexis Houser on Facebook. Collection boxes will be deployed starting Nov. 9. For more information call the Salvation Army at (518) 725-4119.

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