p2p_darien times_toy store 2021

A local nonprofit is taking on the role of Santa for 1,800 children this year.

Shared from The Darien Times, by Raga Justin, Dec 10, 2021

Person to Person, a charitable organization that provides food assistance and other services in Stamford, Darien and Norwalk, opened its annual Holiday Toy Store Thursday.

At St. Luke’s Parish in Darien, an army of local volunteers worked to fill 1,800 “holiday bundles” with stuffed toys, board games, books and gift cards for children ranging from infants to teenagers. As cars lined up in the parking lot, volunteers handed parents gift bag after gift bag, each stuffed with customized gifts for their children.

Their mission is to take some of the gift-giving burden off low-income parents in Fairfield County, said Nancy Coughlin, CEO of Person to Person.

Many of the parents that the organization serve are living paycheck to paycheck, making disposable income for holiday presents difficult, Coughlin said.

“This allows them to have something to give their kids — and it also allows them to not have to choose between holiday gifts and paying the rent or food or going into debt,” Coughlin said.

Monica Camblor, in line Thursday, said her 14-year-old son who would be excited to see his presents, including a Battlestar Galactica board game.

“It’s wonderful,” she said. “I believe in Santa now.”

Coughlin said the event was funded through about $50,000 in physical and financial donations from community members. That money covered the items that went into the bundles, as well as $20 gift cards to either Walmart or Target that parents can use to purchase their own presents.

This is the second year the event has been hosted as a drive-thru, given ongoing concern with COVID-19. Two years ago, parents could walk into the store and choose their own toys, Coughlin said.

By next year, she said, hopefully the in-person “shopping” experience will recommence. The toy store is open until Saturday, with all 1,800 bundle deliveries spread out over three days. Parents had to sign up in advance to receive a bundle, Coughlin said.

Local officials in attendance — including First Selectman Monica McNally, who was put to work delivering bundles to waiting cars — said the event showcased the ongoing power of community in rough times.

“There’s so much stress in the world right now,” said state Sen. Bob Duff, who represents Norwalk and Darien. “With the pandemic and every other issue that’s out there, this really does bring a lot of joy to people, both by giving the gifts and receiving them. And I think it makes our community stronger.”

Read entire article at darientimes.com.