ELYRIA -- Salvation Army Major Bob Sears celebrated his wedding anniversary with his wife Saturday night, but the day was also a cause for another celebration. Thanks to a last-minute push, the Not-Forgotten Box toy drive surpassed its goal with a total of 9,439 toys collected.
The toy drive started by The Chronicle-Telegram in 1958 partners with the Salvation Army each year to collect toys and food for local families in need. This year, 600 families signed up to receive items from the Not-Forgotten Box, and Sears admitted that he was a little nervous that the goal of 8,000 toys would not be reached.
But Sears said he also knew that Elyria residents always come through for their own.
“Each community has their own personality, and Elyria has its, and the Not-Forgotten Box shows it,” he said. “There are people who always help it come through.”
In a show of support for the toy drive, graduates from the Elyria High School class of 1971 braved the snow and carried bags full of toys into The Chronicle-Telegram’s lobby Saturday morning. The group is part of a breakfast club that meets once a month.
Dan Derringer, of Carlisle Township, said the group decided to donate to the Not-Forgotten Box in memory of classmate Cooper Hudnutt, a longtime publisher of The Chronicle-Telegram, who died in 2010. Hudnutt also graduated from EHS in 1971.
“It was a great idea. Coop would be happy about this,” he said.
The group collected approximately $800 through donations and raffles, and the money was used to buy toys for the drive.
“We had a ball,” said Pam Townsend, another member of the breakfast club who spent a few days shopping for toys.
She said the group hopes to continue collections next year, as well. Also donating Saturday were the Elyria Panthers Hockey Club and the team’s coach, Pat Rodgers.
Teammate Jacob Fekete, 12, of Elyria, shopped to pick out the perfect toy for the drive — a Barbie doll for a girl in need.
“I wanted to help the community and give to people who don’t have the stuff that we have,” he said.
Sears said the generosity of the community was “heartwarming,” especially an anonymous donation of more than 800 toys on Friday that helped push the toy drive nearer to its goal.
“It just takes a lot of pressure off me… to know that the kids are taken care of,” he said.
Sears said, with cuts to the food-stamp program, help will still be needed after the holiday season. He said there has been an increased need for the Salvation Army’s food pantry services, and he expects a greater need in January and February.
Sears said the Salvation Army accepts monetary donations, as well as canned goods, at its Elyria location — 716 Broad St. The organization also accepts volunteers for its food pantry and soup kitchen.
“We really need to have those resources throughout the year,” he said.