Cumberland Times-News

Local News

November 7, 2011

Toys for Happiness kicks off holiday season

Volunteer organization celebrating three decades of helping area children

CUMBERLAND — Toys for Happiness celebrated its 30th anniversary Monday night with praises from state officials for its work in helping children over the past three decades.

State Sen. George Edwards and Delegate Kevin Kelly were on hand for the organization’s 30th Anniversary Kick-Off Dinner at the Bedford Road Volunteer Fire Department to present certificates from the governor’s office to the Cumberland-based agency.

Kelly’s citations recognized the four organizations that originally came together to create Tri-State Toys for Happiness in 1981: WTBO, the Country Club Mall, two local chapters of the American Red Cross, and Western Maryland Street Rod Association.

“It’s heart-rendering to know that there are some kids that wake up Christmas morning and don’t have anything,” said Kelly. “Because of you, it happens less frequently.”

Toys for Happiness officials to continue the trend from the past several years in providing toys to 2,000 to 2,200 local children this year. After this holiday season, the organization will have aided approximately 70,000 kids during its 30 years in service, according to president Chuck Koelker.

“It speaks greatly for this area that through the bad economy and everything we’ve still been able to get enough donations to help kids for 30 years,” said Koelker.

“There’s no political ties or moral ties; it’s for the kids in the area that need it. Anything we can get we’re happy with.”

Edwards presented a state citation signed by Gov. Martin O’Malley in recognition of the 30 years of work by Toys for Happiness and its partners to get toys to less fortunate children in the community.

“This (organization) is very important, particularly to young people,” Edwards said. “These may be the only things some kids get for Christmas.”

Toys for Happiness was also presented a $1,000 check Monday night on behalf of ATK for use during the upcoming holidays.

“It’s nice to be able to write a check out and know the money’s there,” said Toys for Happiness vice president Diane Schade, who noted that all of the money raised before the winter holidays goes directly toward the children.

“That’s strictly for me to buy toys with,” Schade said.

Koelker presented several plaques to various people associated with the organization who have been instrumental in helping coordinate Toys for Happiness events. A letter from U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin was also presented by Koelker, commending organizations long history of community service.

According to Koelker, Toys for Happiness functions throughout all of Garrett County, nearly all of Allegany County, and select locations in Mineral County, W.Va., and Bedford and Somerset counties in Pennsylvania. All volunteer fire departments in Allegany County are now in charge of distribution for their areas, working to get toys to people that need them.

“If it wasn’t for all of you, we wouldn’t be able to do what we do,” said Koelker of the numerous groups and individuals that work with Toys for Happiness to get toys into the hands of children.

The organization will again be coordinating its annual gift-wrapping station at the Country Club Mall near the food court.

The volunteer organization has about 20 members that work full time, Schade said, and all of the funding comes from community donations.

Toys for Happiness provides toys for children up to age 15 every winter holiday season. The organization will have nearly 30 drop-off locations taking donations in the tri-state area.

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