Toy and Joy: Spreading cheer
For a decade short of a century, firefighters in Newberg have joined forces to make Christmas a little brighter for local families. That tradition will continue this year.
The Toy and Joy program began in Newberg in 1929 in the garage of a local volunteer firefighter.
"At first, the firefighters repaired broken toys for local children. That then evolved into collecting new toys to be gifted to local families," Stefan Meyers, a spokesman for Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue, said. TVF&R took over responsibility for the program from the Newberg Fire Department after the city discontinued that department due to budget cuts several years ago.
In 2018, slightly more than 200 families and about 900 children were served by the program, Meyers said, adding that the process to get the presents in the hands of the children is fairly simple:
"Each child receives three presents and oftentimes extra gifts 'accidentally' fall into the boxes of gifts we present to the family. (It's) safe to say more than 1,700 toys were individually wrapped and gifted by our wonderful volunteers last year."
The wannabe elves that volunteer to run the program are many and diverse.
"The people who work on this are a wonderful collaboration of retired Newberg firefighters and volunteers and current TVF&R firefighters and volunteers," Meyers said. "We love that the people who made these programs so successful in the past are working alongside with those that are working to carry on this tradition."
Those 'old-timers' include retired chief Ben Erb and Jill Dorrell, who in addition to working for the NFD for decades, has also volunteered for the Toy and Joy program for nearly as long.
Families wishing to receive gifts for children infant to 15 years old go through a simple process.
"Our qualifications are minimal, we simply ask for verification that they live in the area," Meyers said. "In practice, we find that a large majority of the families we drop presents off have obvious and apparent financial need."
He explained further that the department has a committee made of retirees, volunteers, firefighters and TVF&R staff that begin the process of organizing the effort in the fall.
The primary funding sources for the program are the fire department's Toy and Joy Golf Scramble in September and its pancake breakfast in May.
"The Newberg Volunteer Firefighter Association also put some of their remaining funds towards the program, which has helped stabilize the funding," Meyers said.
Realistically, he added, organizers know there probably are a lot more families that could be served by this program.
"We partner with many nonprofits in the area to coordinate outreach, but we would like to ask the community to encourage any parents or guardians that are struggling to consider signing up for the program," Meyers said. "We want every child in Newberg to feel the joy of opening a present and knowing that someone cared to make them feel special."
Although the application is 4 p.m. Wednesday (Dec. 18), "if applications are received after the deadline we will do our best to help, but we cannot guarantee fulfillment," he said.
Applications may be submitted from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Newberg-Dundee Police Department, Dundee Fire Department and Newberg City Hall, during business hours at Krohn's Appliance at 2207 Portland Road and at the downtown fire station.
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