The 5th Annual Salvation Army of Fulton County Christmas Toy Drive is facing a specific need for toys for children ages 10 and up and for infants up to 3 years of age.
Toy drive coordinator Ryan Lorey, who also operates the Fulton County Area News Facebook page, has helped distribute about 50 toy collection boxes throughout Fulton and Montgomery counties over the past few weeks.
“There is no Salvation Army in Montgomery County, so the Salvation Army helps out in Montgomery now from up here in Fulton County,” Lorey said. “A lot of our toys will help out kids in Montgomery County too.”
Lorey on Sunday described what he’s seen this year so far for the annual toy collection effort.
“We typically don’t get stuff for kids 10 and up, it’s challenging to get for that age, and at the moment we have nothing in stock,” Lorey said. “And baby stuff too. There’s stuff people could buy for babies, and we have a hard time getting baby items as well, and people can donate infant clothes and food too, not just toys.”
Capt. Wendy Senior, the commanding officer of the Salvation Army of Fulton County, said during the 2020 Christmas season her organization helped 388 families in Fulton and Montgomery counties, helping to donate an average of five to six toys each for 506 children. She said the toy drive also includes opportunities to donate food, but so far this year the Salvation Army is seeing fewer total families expressing need, which she attributes to increases in the amount of money available through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program [SNAP], more availability of food at food pantries and additional mass food drops.
“Last year, there were a lot of people who were just food, and no toys involved, and that would be a lot of seniors or single people or homeless,” she said. “This year we’re seeing more people come to us and saying ‘I don’t need food. I need toys. I need gifts for my children.’ We see a trend in that direction.”
Lorey said the toy drive effort uses the Salvation Army’s “Angel Tree Program” to help identify the needs of the community. He said participating locations in the two counties have “Angel Tree Tags”, which are paper tags that can be hung on Christmas Trees which contain a specific child’s ID number, first name, age, gender, clothing sizes, and Christmas wish items. The tag has all the necessary information a sponsor needs to purchase the gifts for his/her assigned child.
Lorey said after four years of organizing the toy drive the Salvation Army of Fulton County has developed great knowledge of the needs of specific children in the two counties.
“We’ve gotten bigger and better at this every year,” Lorey said. “What’s nice about our program is that, while there’s a lot of good toy programs out there, but what’s really nice about our toy drive is that we know who these kids are. We know how old they are. We know the types of things that they like or need, so the kid is actually going to get stuff that they like and or need, versus some of the other toy programs that just aim to provide toys to families.”
In Fulton County some of the locations where the Salvation Army toy collection boxes can be found include the Walmart Supercenter in Gloversville, the Fulton Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing, and three locations used by the First Choice Financial Federal Credit Union including their main branch office in Gloversville, a smaller branch inside the Walmart Supercenter and a location near the Subway shop in Vail Mills.
Lorey said the central hub for donating toys in Montgomery County is the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office in Fultonville.
“They’ll even go out and, if an elderly person or somebody can’t get to the sheriff’s office, and they want to donate a toy, they’ll send a patrol car to that person’s house,” Lorey said.
Volunteers needed for 2021 Hope Marches On Red Kettle Campaign
Another key aspect of the Salvation Army’s annual Christmas season activities is the organization’s 130th Red Kettle fundraising campaign. Captain Wendy Senior said each year the Salvation Army of Fulton County deploys two red kettles, one at the Price Chopper in Johnstown and the other at the Walmart Supercenter in Gloversville, to collect money to help the needy.
Senior said in 2020 she had about 12 volunteers available to monitor the two red kettles and ring bells to help solicit donations, but so far 2021 has proven to be a more difficult year to recruit volunteers.
“I had many more people willing to volunteer on a regular basis last year — this year I have three,” Senior said. “And at the same time, I have less people giving.”
Senior said that although she has fewer volunteers to solicit donations, this year’s edition of the Red Kettle Campaign includes the ability for people to use payment apps on their smartphones, such as Google Pay and Apply Pay, to contribute money to the campaign.
“Price Chopper will let us leave our stand up when there is no Kettle person there because people can use those payment apps to donate money, even when there isn’t a person standing there,” Senior said. “People can just walk up to the Kettle and just make a payment.”
Senior said people who are interested in volunteering should call her office at 518-725-4119.