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Toys bring joy with Kent community drive

Kent firefighter Caitlin Corey delivers toys to the Kent Food Bank as part of the annual Toys for Joy drive. - Mark Klaas, Kent Reporter
Kent firefighter Caitlin Corey delivers toys to the Kent Food Bank as part of the annual Toys for Joy drive.
— image credit: Mark Klaas, Kent Reporter

The line stretched beyond the block, bending the corner of West Harrison and Fourth Avenue North.

Kids, families, mothers and grandparents stood in orderly fashion on the frost-glazed sidewalk on a chilly morning, waiting patiently for their chance to take home a bundle of toys.

Kent indeed brings Christmas to those in need.

"It's great to be a part of this program. I think we do a lot of good," said Justin Schauer, a Kent Fire Department firefighter and event leader who joined the volunteer effort last Friday in the massive toy distribution at the Kent Food Bank. "It's rewarding to get to see the way the public responds to needs in their community. We get such great support from the community. It's really fun to see the community come together."

The toy drop is a Kent tradition, a culmination of the community's hard work and generosity, Schauer said.

Each year – as part of the Toys for Joy drive – the Kent Fire Department, Kent Firefighters Local 1747 and the Kent Firefighters Foundation join businesses, service clubs, schools and residents to donate, wrap and deliver the toys to the food bank.

The effort has been going on for more than 20 years, firefighters pointed out, and the need – especially in the throes of a sour and stagnant economy – continues to grow.

The program delivered 4,500 toys – from bikes and games to stuffed animals and dolls – to the food bank, helping more than 2,000 families, Schauer said.

The number of toys was down approximately 10 percent from last year, though Schauer was hopeful of last-minute donations.

The public donated toys over several weeks at collection barrels at Kent fire stations, businesses and Kent City Hall.

Volunteers participated in two evening "wrapping parties." Each night had more than one hundred participants.

Volunteers – from teenagers fulfilling community services hours to firefighters' wives and family sharing their time – were busy unloading large sacks of toys from trucks and handing them to families. The inventory quickly grew as volunteers sorted the wave of donations inside the food bank.

"This couldn't be possible without the public's willingness," said Kyle Ohashi, spokesman for the Kent Fire Department Regional Fire Authority.

Schauer, firefighters and program organizers would like to thank USF Reddaway for its support and donation of a semi-truck to help store and transport the toys, as well as Door to Door Storage of Kent.

Davis Wire Corp., Bowen Scarff Ford, Kohl’s, and Kent Rotary Club made financial contributions.

Toys for Joy is an annual event where new, unwrapped toys are collected, sorted, wrapped and delivered to the Kent and Covington food banks for distribution to needy families in our community. Nonperishable food and monetary donations also were accepted.

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