Senior volunteers help make holiday brighter for kids

Friday, December 1, 2006

Jackie Young's husband, Dave, started volunteering at the Putnam County Hospital several years ago.

With no one at home, Jackie felt like she just had to find something to do. So she started volunteering for the Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) in 1972.

Thirty-four years later, Jackie is still volunteering, only now for the Putnam County Senior Center as its toy drive coordinator.

She started the toy drive nearly 20 years ago.

Jackie said she wanted to start the drive to help children and families in need during the Christmas season.

"It makes me feel good," she said. "It's my Christmas."

All the toys through the drive are donated. They are then categorized according to ages and what is determined as a boys' or girls' toy.

Jackie said she groups toys for infants ages 0-2, 3-5-years-old, 6-8-years-old, and 9-12-years-old. She added there are limited items in the toy room at the Senior Center for children over 12.

"We just work as the toys come in," she said. "We fill (up the toy bags) according to ages."

She said there is a wide variety of toys available in each bag. For example, a family with a 9-year-old girl may receive a toy bag equipped with books, crayons, workbooks, paste, jewelry, a purse, stuffed animals, board games, and much more.

Jackie said volunteers at the Senior Center begin handing out toys sacks in November and continue through the holiday season. The volunteers also start collecting toys after each Christmas.

"It's a never-ending job sometimes," she said. "And it's back-breaking. There's a lot of walking."

The toy room at the Senior Center is located where the Food Pantry used to be, on the second floor of the building, which is located on the north side of the courthouse square.

Jackie decorated the room herself, painting flowers, windows and a huge clown in the back of the room.

Although nearly one-third of the sacks have already been given away, she said there's still plenty left. For example, she said she's been holding back on giving away a few dollhouses because of a lack of furniture. She said last year, the center gave away nearly 300 sacks of toys for those in need.

Jackie said all the toys are inspected prior to them being put in the sacks for delivery.

"We don't give out any toys that are dirty or broken," she said.

For more information on the Senior Center Toy Drive, call 653-8606.

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