East Stroudsburg Distributes Toys to Over 400 in Monroe County

Dec 24, 2020 | by Micaela Hood

While Santa is busy in the North Pole, his elves are helping distribute gifts to kids living in the Poconos. 

It’s a holiday collective effort by the Pocono Record’s Toys for Joy program. 

In 2019, thanks to our readers, the campaign raised $17,166.

The money was distributed earlier this year to the Pleasant Valley Ecumenical Network, the Salvation Army, and Pocono Services for Families and Children. 

The Gift of Giving 

Residents of Monroe County have been struggling to provide for their loved ones because of the pandemic.

And for many, it came down to a difficult choice: Pay the rent and bills or buy gifts to place under the Christmas tree. 

That’s why Toys for Joy and other programs such as Toys for Tots are a vital part of the community, says Tom Campbell, president of the Pleasant Valley Ecumenical Network.

“They return a Christmas. A lot of kids didn’t think they were going to get a Christmas this year, and we’re hoping that this year —more than any other year — kids were going to have the Christmas they wanted," Campbell said. "It's even more important for the parents. When you can’t give your kids something they wanted, that really cuts right to the bone. But when you know, ''hey, my child is going to be able to get the Superman figurine'' or whatever it may be, that takes a whole lot of stress off parents." 

PVEN, based in Scotia, began distributing gifts to families Dec. 12 - 18. 

An estimated 300 children living in Chestnuthill, Eldred, Hamilton, Jackson, Ross and Polk townships received presents, or as Campbell dubbed them "dream toys."

"Families who signed up earlier received angel tree coupons and then we distributed them to local churches and businesses and the actually people who live in the area buy toys specifically requested by the parent," Campbell said.  "So parents can tell us their kid wanted a bike or a dolly that sneezes, and that gets on an angel tree list with a specific description and someone picks up that and they bring it over to PVEN with a number written on the back, so they don’t know what the child's name is."

Residents who don't register early also get a chance to give their children a "dream toy."

"Most kids get anywhere from between seven to 12 toys," Campbell said. "But then there's the dream toys that they'll also get. And parents who register late also get toys out of a list we get from the Toys for Tots Program, and its partnership with the U.S. Marines."

It's normally a festive event set up by the PVEN in a gymnasium where parents and grandparents pick out gifts. 

"This year, due to COVID, 20 PVEN volunteers had to use parents' recommendations to pre-select and pre-bag all the gifts for their children," Campbell said. "Parents then came to the PVEN center and the bags of toys were loaded into their cards for them. It was somewhat anticlimactic, but necessary for everyone's safety."

The Salvation Army in East Stroudsburg followed similar protocols during its toy distribution held Dec. 22 - 23. 

"We normally have a toy shop set up, but due to COVID we had to pre-bag the toys. Families were not allowed inside. It was done like our food distribution where it was a drive-thru and we put the bags of toys in the trunk of their vehicles," said Jill Brink, volunteer director at the Salvation Army. 

The Salvation Army used the money from Toys for Joy to purchase presents from Group Sales, a toy supplier for charities based in Cincinnati, Ohio. 

There were over 400 residents in Monroe County that applied online for toys this year, Brink says. 

Even in an economic slump, Campbell's Christmas wish is for people to continue donating to charitable organizations, so that in 2021 Christmas returns to families who may need help. 

"The year has been stressful for both kids and families. A lot of kids know that mom and dad aren't working the same amount of hours. They know that their parents are tight with money and had to cut back," he said. "I've also seen a lot more multi-generational families this year. It’s not terribly unusual for us to have a grandparent who is taking care of their grandchildren, but this year it seemed like there was more. (I think) a lot of families are living together until they get through this."

For more information on PVEN's services including the food pantry, summer lunch program and clothing closet, go to pven.net. 



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