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Truckloads of holiday toys deliver joy for needy children through The News Neediest Fund

Truckloads of donated toys rolled up to a warehouse in the City of Tonawanda on Tuesday morning.

Tractor-trailers filled with 7-foot-high stacks of cardboard boxes full of toys – on their way to needy children this holiday season – started arriving before 10 a.m. at the Young Street site.

With a little more than two weeks left before Christmas, the effort to bring holiday joy to families through The News Neediest Fund and the Western New York Holiday Partnership is in full swing.

Becca Freund, of Orchard Park, a volunteer who helped unload toys at the warehouse, said she wanted to spread the joy and happiness of the season. “The holidays are just the greatest time, and it’s sad when there are people who aren’t getting what everyone else is getting,” said Freund, a designer at Fisher-Price. “So it’s nice – when you’re able to give because we have so much and we do so much – to give to people who don’t get what we all get.”

Freund was one of a dozen volunteers on site Tuesday who work at Fisher-Price, which donated 4½ truckloads of toys to this year’s campaign.

Once the mounds of toy boxes made it off the truck, volunteers unwrapped the pallets of plastic and divvied them up among 21 piles for a variety of organizations across Erie and Niagara counties.

The annual News Neediest drive – which collects toys and gifts, as well as cash – started in 1982.

Last year, the fund helped more than 12,000 families, including 11,000 children. It is all part of the Western New York Holiday Partnership, a group of more than 32 organizations, including the United Way of Buffalo & Erie County, the Salvation Army, Wegmans, Fisher-Price, Benderson Development and Toys for Tots.

The News Neediest drive is still accepting donations and is a little more than halfway to its goal of $180,000 in monetary donations, campaign officials said.

The monetary donations are turned into holiday meals for needy families through the Food Bank of Western New York.

Fund organizers say they are most in need of toys for older children, especially ages 10 to 12.

Donations to The News Neediest Fund may be dropped off across the region, including at Wegmans locations, as well as in lobby of The News at Washington and Scott streets.

Tuesday’s donations piled onto existing stacks of toys, from dolls, blocks and soccer balls to board games, stuffed animals and toy cars.

Asked why she volunteered, Shirley Laska, who works in soft goods at Fisher-Price, mentioned her three children.

“It’s important that kids have a great Christmas,” Laska said after dropping off a couple of boxes.

Jerry Miller, of West Seneca, who works in the quality department at Fisher-Price, said that it was an easy decision to come out and help.

“Everybody likes to give away toys at Christmas,” he said.

It’s not too late for families who are looking for assistance to call 211 and apply for help, though options are more limited with less time remaining before the holidays, said Kelly Dodd, assistant director of contact center services for the Olmsted Center for Sight.

Donations of toys will be accepted all the way up to the holidays. That also includes a Three Kings celebration in early January where toy donations are given out to needy children, Dodd noted.

“Even toys that come in at the last minute are going to find a kid who loves them,” she said.

Families that need other kinds of help, like with utilities or housing or food assistance throughout the year, should also call 211 – which is available 24 hours a day – for help.

For information on how to donate, call 211 or 888-696-9211. A full list of donation sites can be found at buffalonews.com.

email: abesecker@buffnews.com