Wrap sessions: Toys for Tots volunteers help get presents ready

While wearing her Toys for Tots jacket last year, Donna Weller was approached by a woman in the supermarket.

The woman said she just wanted to give Weller a hug because the annual toy drive had previously saved a Christmas for her family and they will always be grateful and support the campaign.

Weller said she was left in tears because that moment exemplified the Toys for Tots mission.

“We’re trying to find every kid in the county that needs a toy, and we’ll get it to them,” she said.

And after spending weeks collecting toys for Centre County families, it’s time to wrap them.

Campaign organizers held two wrapping sessions at The Penn Stater Conference Center Hotel on Saturday and one on Sunday to kick off the tough task of wrapping about 15,000 gifts. Campaign coordinator Gene Weller said they got more than 200 volunteers Sunday, but Saturday’s numbers were lower because of the snowstorm.

Anyone interested in volunteering will have two more chances, Monday from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. and Tuesday from 1 p.m. until the job is done, Weller added.

He said the generous nature of the county’s residents makes his job easy each year. Weller never has to stand in the spotlight and ask for donations because the word of mouth from the volunteers always goes far, and they are able to fill the need in Centre County, he said.

“The support of this community is so fantastic,” he said.

The campaign aims to give four items to each family, and any excess toys go to local agencies. Weller said studies have shown that more than four items is too many, and less isn’t enough, so four is the number that they have been using for years.

The need in Centre County increased a little bit this year, Weller said, but he is happy the community stepped up and looks to have satisfied it again.

Toys for Tots also has been collecting food items to distribute among the local food banks for the last five years, and Donna Weller said that effort will sustain the food banks through the holiday season and give them extra food for January and February.

She said that some people advised them against adding the food aspect because it would likely take away from toy donations, but she said it has only increased the generosity in both.

Donna Weller was very busy Sunday afternoon, running from room to room to make sure everything was going smoothly, but she credited the volunteers for coming out and helping.

One of those volunteers, Sally Cameron, has attended wrapping sessions two years in a row and has enjoyed it enough to make it a yearly tradition.

Cameron, of Port Matilda, brought her grandchildren out last year, and said that volunteering during the holiday season is a good lesson for children.

“I think it’s very important to learn that aspect of the giving of the holiday season,” she said, adding that she’s already looking forward to coming back next year.