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Area toy drives hoping to pick up steam

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A teacher picks out toys for needy students during the Operation Santa Claus event at Greenville Fire/Rescue in 2017.


By Tyler Stocks
The Daily Reflector

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Organizers from Pitt County Operation Santa Claus and Toys for Tots are getting nervous that some children will wake up without presents under the tree as toy and monetary donations are slow coming this year.

Rebekah Thurston, spokeswoman for Greenville Fire-Rescue, the primary organization heading up Operation Santa Claus, said that she’s hoping donations will pick up soon.  

“We’re short a couple of days this year because of where Christmas falls,” Thurston said. “We’re hoping for a big push. It’s been a little slow this year.”

Thurston said that fire-rescue employees will be collecting new, unwrapped toys Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Greenville Walmart locations on East 10th Street and Greenville Boulevard.

In addition to the Saturday toy drive, Thurston said a holiday concert will be held Sunday from 7-9 p.m. at Reimage Church, 3950 Victory Lane in Winterville. All of the proceeds benefit Operation Santa Claus, and Thurston said she’s hoping the concert will raise $10,000.

Greenville Fire-Rescue is again partnering with the Salvation Army, Pitt County Schools the Department of Social Services and other organizations to collect and distribute the toys.

The donated toys will be distributed Dec. 13 at Greenville Fire-Rescue station No. 6 to social workers, counselors and other county employees who work with children in need. Firefighters will also choose toys for children those who’ve been recently displaced from their homes and the remaining toys will be sent to The Salvation Army who will then distribute toys to pre-selected families on Dec. 17.

Thurston said Operation Santa Claus serves more than 1,000 children and all of the money and items collected stays in Pitt County. Bicycles are in high demand, but Thurston said any gift is appreciated.  

“A lot of kids in this area ask for bikes, which are a big ticket item, so we understand that not everybody can afford to buy a bike. Even the small stuff matters. A lot of times, people focus on the little kids and the toys and we have a lot of pre-teens as well so they sometimes, get forgotten,” Thurston said.

Collection boxes are located throughout Greenville including all six fire stations. Other locations include the Greenville Police Department, City Hall, Greenville Utilities, Pitt County Schools, the State Highway Patrol office and the Hilton Greenville.

For those needing assistance from Operation Santa Claus, contact the Salvation Army at 252-756-3388. Eligible recipients must live in Pitt County, provide documentation for each child needing assistance, be experiencing a financial hardship.

Toys for Tots

Like Operation Santa Claus, donations for Toys for Tots has been slow, and coordinator Rodney Coles, who is also the director of Churches Outreach Network, said many of the boxes are still empty.

“This year, it’s been very slow,” Coles said. “We’ve had 21,000 people request assistance and the toys haven’t been coming in. We’ve got boxes out and we haven’t picked up one box yet.”

Coles said the organization has delivered more than 300 boxes to businesses in the Greenville area. Many of the businesses are collecting from their customers and their employees are pitching in, too.

Several collection sites are open in the community, but one of the big ones, WITN television, just wrapped up its collection of toys yesterday.

“The pressure is on,” Coles said.

Coles is hopeful that things will pick up, he said.

Anyone who wants to contribute can bring new unwrapped toys to Brown & Wood Buick GMC, 329 Greenville Blvd., SW., and Barbour-Hendrick Honda Greenville, 3300 S Memorial Drive.

Toys also will be collected at Building D at the Pitt County Technology Development Center at 1800 N. Greene St., across from the N.C. Department of Transportation. Volunteers will staff the warehouse throughout the day Friday-Sunday. 


Also on Friday, the Winterville Police Department is leading an effort by area law enforcement officers to collect bicycles called Cops on the Roof. The officers will stay atop the roof of the Walmart on Greenville Boulevard until they collect 200 bikes. A similar effort last year collected more than 100 bikes.

Toys will be collected through Dec. 22, when they will be distributed by 25 different agencies in Pitt County to children in need in communities from Grifton to Grimesland to Bethel and Farmville, Coles said. 

Distributions also will be held in Greenville at 1800 N. Greene St. and Jarvis United Methodist Church, 510 S. Washington St. 

Last year the effort distributed gifts to 22,306 people in Pitt County, Coles said. Partner efforts are taking place in neighboring counties that distribute toys in surrounding communities.

For those needing assistance from Toys for Tots, contact Coles at 252-717-9600. Also visit Con2007.org and fill out an application for assistance. 

Contact Tyler Stocks at tstocks@reflector.com or 252-329-9566. Follow him on Twitter @TylerstocksGDR