Fire department is collecting toys

Fire department is collecting toys
Scott Daniels

Chief Jim Parrish, administrative assistant Denise Phillips and Paula Lancaster, community care coordinator, are getting ready for the third toy drive.


For the third year, the New Philadelphia Fire Department will collect toys for children who are separated from their families this Christmas. The drive-thru for toy donations is set for Sunday, Dec. 3 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the fire station downtown.

Fire department community care coordinator Paula Lancaster said her work supporting the department’s paramedics led to community outreach when she began at her position three years ago.

“In 2020 we did a compassion station where we gathered laundry soaps and dish soaps. When the pandemic hit, families who used their EBT cards were unable to buy household items with that, so we helped out with that. After that, we asked ourselves what else we might be able to do as a fire station to help our community,” Lancaster said.

In 2021 a partnership with Tuscarawas County Job & Family Services began the next phase of the department’s efforts.

“We partnered with their child protection department,” Lancaster said. “A lot of times, kids are placed outside their normal environment on an emergency basis, and their hosts may not have been expecting to have children around for the holidays. That year’s toy drive for those kids was very successful. We don’t pick the families; we just collect the toys and deliver them to Job & Family Services, and they see that everything gets to where it’s needed.”

It’s a solution to a problem many may not have realized existed. “The children may have been pulled from their homes for whatever reason, and grandparents or another relative may have them or they may be placed with a temporary foster care family. That may be a situation where no one was expecting to have children around at Christmas,” Lancaster said.

With just a two-hour window for dropping off toys, Lancaster said the focus is on toys for children of all ages. “We have received donations of things like clothes or socks, but there is funding in place to make sure those needs are covered for the kids in that situation. What’s not covered is Christmas toys.”

The department is looking for new, unwrapped toys and fun gifts that can then be passed on to the children. The size of the donation doesn’t matter.

“Some people bring a trunk load of toys, and others bring just one. It’s all very much appreciated, no matter how much is donated,” Lancaster said.

The department bay and trucks will be decorated for the toy drive, and a special visitor will be on hand.

“Santa Claus will be here that day, so you can visit with Santa and talk with him also,” Lancaster said.

The drive-thru is pretty busy, Lancaster said. “We have people enter from the alley at the rear of the building and drive on through.”

She then takes the donated toys to Job & Family Services the next day after the drive.

“We have a lot of generous people in the area, and there are many agencies that gather toys each year,” Lancaster said. “We looked for something that might have been missed, and when we found out there was a need for this, it touched our hearts and we knew we wanted to help.”

Having found a successful formula, the department plans to keep doing the toy drive in the future.

The New Philadelphia Fire Station is at 134 Front Ave. SE.

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