Thousands of children will receive a toy this year thanks to the county's annual Toys For Tots drive.
In fact, volunteers this year expect more families will benefit from the charitable nonprofit group established and run by the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves.
"We had a ton of people here to pick up toys," said Terri Johnson, Toys for Tots coordinator, on Sunday inside the group's 210 Cherry St. location in the city of Jamestown.
Toys for Tots volunteers are pictured Sunday preparing to give away toys collected as part of the 2012 Toys for Tots drive.
P-J?photo by Eric Tichy
Johnson, who has been volunteering for the last 13 years, said over 2,000 applications for toys had been received this year. However, she expects approximately 500 or more last-second applications early in the week - pushing the annual total just over its average.
Eighty volunteers helped collect, sort, bag and distribute thousands of toys throughout the county.
Just over 200 bags of toys were driven by a caravan of volunteers to Dunkirk.
Children from birth to age 17 living at home were eligible to receive toys, while applicants were asked to show identification and proof of income. The Resource Center coordinates the Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots drive in Chautauqua County each year. Aside from toy collections, Toys for Tots also accepts monetary donations.
The generosity of donations and volunteers, meanwhile, never ceases to amaze Johnson.
"It's very rewarding to see these people come in here and pick up their toys," she said. "This is just a way to give back, and it's a way for us to give back."
By Sunday afternoon, many bags full of toys had been retrieved - although a steady line of people flowed in and out of the Cherry Street building.
Bobbie Jo Frey, 27, of Ashville, was one of many parents present to pick up a bag. The parent of one said it was her first time utilizing Toys for Tots.
"This really helps, especially for those trying to get back on their feet," Frey said.
The Toys for Tots drive in Chautauqua County, operated out of Jamestown, will help an estimated 1,000 families this year. Many applications for toys to needy children come from family members, and others through case workers and the schools.
"We try to get many people involved," said Shirley Brown, who has been volunteering for Toys for Tots with her daughter, Heather, for well over a decade. "This is what our family does."
Brown said after a slow and worrisome start to the annual drive, toys came in by the barrel full.
"A few weeks ago we were worried," she said. "But people came through and it all came together."