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Christmas toy donation drive gets going

AMENIA — Children throughout the area will be waking up Christmas morning to a brighter day thanks to hundreds of donors who saw a need and decided to do something about it.

Their reasons for helping may vary, but many have stories whose roots are deep and lasting.

One such belongs to Cindy Snow-Pitts of Wassaic who, with her friend Mary Ellen Brown has once again organized a stocking and toy drive for children in the Amenia-Wassaic area.

She says, “I grew up poor.. and on welfare and suffered through it the whole time.” In the economically depressed Aroostook County in Maine, her mother struggled to provide for her family — and often failed — which led to town after town as eviction took its toll.

Snow-Pitts says, “I remember this one Christmas — and it still puts tears in my eyes.”

Sitting on the floor, with no money for paper, her mother had sorted through a box of donated gifts that had been delivered Christmas Eve, trying to explaining to the children why they did not look like the wrapped gifts Santa usually delivered.

Cindy’s gift was a “previously loved” naked baby doll with tangled hair which looked nothing like the gifts she believed the children on the “Nice List” would receive.  Her child-like response was “Santa must hate me. He hates me. I’m really a bad person.”

She said it took her years to understand that Santa, of course, did not hate her. Instead, someone with the best of intentions but also possibly facing some of the same economic challenges, had tried to help the family by providing toys when otherwise there would have been none, and she is appreciative of that help.

But still, “There was that whole frustration of being poor — of being ‘that kid.’ It’s just something I understand from the bottom of my heart” and so now she is working to do the best she can for any child in need.

She recognizes that it can be difficult to ask for help saying, “Nobody wants to walk through the door and say ‘I’m poor.’” She also noted that “the poorest of the poor may not show up because of their pride — so we need to get their friends to do it for them.”

Snow-Pitts said, “I don’t know what hoops Mom jumped through to get that box on Christmas Eve,” but now that she is in a position to help others, she is doing so with no “hoops” attached. Obtaining a toy is as simple as sending a message specifying needs to  cindysnowphoto@gmail.com or calling 845-891-6954. Donation is easy as well with about a dozen boxes located in businesses throughout the community.

While she occasionally hears from some people who believe that a relaxed attitude toward registration could lead to abuse, she says it does not happen. She points out that whether at last year’s toy drive, the backpack program she and friends organized for the Webutuck Schools, or the Bonnie Boxes they create for cancer patients, greed has not reared its ugly head.

Simply anxious to take care, Snow-Pitts says,  “If we help 40 kids, we help 40 kids. If we help 200 kids, we help 200 kids,” with people taking only what they need and leaving the rest behind for others.

Insisting that each child should “feel loved and cared for by Santa,” the program gratefully accepts only new toys, hopefully donated with wrapping paper and tape that can be given away as well.

They will be distributed at the DDSO in Wassaic on Saturday and Sunday Dec. 10 and 11 from 10a.m. to 4 p.m.

Snow-Pitts said that they began the program when she learned last year that the Marine Corps Toys for Tots would not be distributed in the area, a problem which has been resolved, according to T.G. Ashline who is now spearheading the program in Dutchess County.

He says toys are being collected at 122 boxes and will be distributed at multiple locations including the American Legion Post 178 at 155 US 44 in Millerton and the Dutchess County Cornell Cooperative Extension Farm and Home Center at 2715 Route 44, Millbrook. Toys are provided according to the needs of each area as indicated when families register.

Pickup will be by appointment only with identification required. Requests for toys must be made through Hudson-Valleytoysfortots.org.

A separate “No Questions Asked / First Come - First Served “ gift distribution of a limited number of new and used toys previously collected by Adopt-a-Family and the Webutuck Teacher’s Association will take place at the NorthEast-Millerton Library Annex at 28 Century Blvd., Millerton, on Saturday, Dec. 3 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

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