, Newburyport, MA

December 21, 2013

Donations surge for 'Toys for Tots'

By Dave Rogers
Staff Writer

---- — NEWBURY — Judging by the seemingly endless stream of donors dropping off new unwrapped toys to the State Police barracks off Scotland Road the last few weeks, Christmas morning for hundreds, if not more, children across Greater Newburyport, will be a little brighter this year.

Donations, part of the nation-wide Toys for Tots program spearheaded by the United States Marine Corps., filled the barracks’ mail room on several occasions, resulting in multiple pick-ups by state police volunteers who are coordinating efforts regionally.

The Toys for Tots program typically starts in October and ends in mid-December. This year, the official end was Dec. 14, but that didn’t stop dozens more from stopping by the barracks after the deadline to drop off toys.

“That’s nothing, they already picked up three times already,” state police Sgt. Bruce O’Rourke said this week, pointing to the large pile of toys.

In some cases, donors didn’t stop with one or two toys but dropped off several boxes full. Among those visiting the barracks, according to state police, was Fuel Training Studio on Merrimac Street in Newburyport which dropped off three boxes crammed with toys.

Mary Jo Anderson, one of 11 Fuel Training Studio instructors which organized a toy drive earlier this month, said she and her co-workers offered a free class to anyone who donated a toy. The response was overwhelming with about 48 people taking part in the toy drive plus a steady stream of donations in the days that followed.

“They’re still coming in, I have to drop off another box,” Anderson said.

Barracks commander Lt. Paul Zipper said he couldn’t remember a time where he had seen so many donations flood the station. In addition to helping out children this holiday season, the program has had an added benefit: strengthening ties between his barracks and the public.

“It makes us part of the community, it really does,” Zipper said.

Three years ago, the barracks was besieged with donations after word spread that thieves broke into a storage container in Burlington morning and stole roughly 1,500 donated toys collected through the Toys for Tots program. The Grinch-like theft sent shock waves across the region and lead to an outpouring of support forcing the program to extend donations until closer to Christmas.

But while the Newbury barracks may have seen an uptick in donations this year, regionally, the results haven’t been as promising, according to one trooper.

State Trooper Peter Morawiak, who coordinates donation pick-up for several barracks, said anecdotally, donations seem to be down this year compared to last. Still, he said, the program has been an unqualified success.

“The community support has been good throughout the years,” Morawiak said.