Simpson Toys for Tots drive a huge success

Simpson Toys for Tots drive a huge success

Image Credit: Teri Stein

Robert Stratton, organizer of the Tuscarawas County Toys for Tots program, was stunned with the overwhelming success of a recent toy drive organized by Simpson Heating and Air of New Philadelphia. He was even on hand to thank donors personally as they dropped off toys at the end of Storybook Lane at Tuscora Park.

“The community response has been unbelievable,” Stratton said. “We have had people from all over the state deliver toys to us. The Marine Corp appreciates all the community support. This means all the kids in our coverage area will get a toy for Christmas.”

Simpson Heating and Air are matching each toy donation to help Toys for Tots reach their goal of helping about 3,000 children in the area.

A fire on Dec. 6 at the Sherrodsville business, Lincoln’s and Things, owned by Robert Stratton, led to the loss of about $8,000 worth of toys stored there for the U.S. Marines Toys for Tots program. The story was then picked up by major news organizations around the state, leading to the response.

Stratton is proud to have served in the Marine Corp.

“God bless the Marine Corp and all in the other services for their sacrifices for this country,” Stratton said. “When you see a veteran, make sure you say thank you.”

Simpson Heating and Air has been involved with the Toys for Tots program for several years. The toy collection at Tuscora Park was planned about a month and a half ago, and they thought they would get about 500 toys donated. Instead, about four large trailers were filled. Traffic was nonstop at the park starting at 1 p.m. until close to the 3 p.m. end time.

“It’s unbelievable. This is just amazing,” Laci Colletti of Simpson Heating and Air said. “We are matching the toy donations and holy cow.”

Colletti thought it would be nice to have a toy drive at Storybook Lane. Colletti’s son is on the New Philadelphia High School basketball team, and because she knew the students needed to serve some volunteer time, they were asked to help. They were not the only helpers present though. Spouses, family and friends all pitched in.

Stratton said each year they have been able to give each child in the program three to four toys, and the toy drive ensures each child will get four toys this year.

The enthusiasm was contagious as organizers went from unloading one lane of traffic at a time to two to keep the line moving. New toys appeared sometimes by the car load, truck load and trailer load. A group of motorcyclists also dropped off toys.

Simpson Heating and Air also hosts other charitable projects throughout the year, but this has been their most successful by far.

“This kind of blew up,” Colletti said, adding to stay tuned for their next project in the spring as they might need to recuperate from the toy drive before planning another event.

A.J. Slaughter, 11, of New Philadelphia was one of the many volunteers.

“My brother’s helping. My dad coaches varsity, and I like to help out the community,” Slaughter said.

Kathy Jordan of Canton, the daughter of Robert Stratton, has been impressed with the efforts of her father. He has been involved in one way or another with the Toys for Tots program for more than 40 years.

“His only concern is for Toys for Tots. His health has declined, but there was never a question whether he was going to be involved in Toys for Tots. Even when the building was burning, Toys for Tots was not in question,” Jordan said. “It means a lot to him.”

She’s just as impressed with the efforts of Simpson Heating and Air for planning the event.

“The outpouring we have got from all over the country, it shows how good people are, and Simpson’s is just amazing,” Jordan said. “It’s a big commitment. We’re so grateful.”

Stratton and Jordan are thankful to live in a caring community. They never thought the toy drive would be so big.

“I just really want to emphasize how grateful we are that we are going to take care of all these kids that need taken care of,” Jordan said.