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Connecting Henry’s Toy Shop provides for hundreds

 

By Monroe Roark
Times Correspondent 

 Staff members and volunteers with Connecting Henry are making final preparations for the Christmas Toy Shop, which will be open tomorrow and Friday for young people from every corner of Henry County.

  More than 800 children from birth to 16 years of age are signed up, according to Connecting Henry director Daryl Dotschay. A warehouse on McDonough Parkway has been donated to the organization for several weeks to house the Toy Shop.

Susan Crumbley, community relations coordinator for Connecting Henry, oversees the Toy Shop operation. Photo by Monroe Roark

  Each child will receive a certain number of tickets and choose two toys, two books and some stocking stuffers. The shopping area has been divided into sections for boys, girls and babies, Dotschay said.

  The process for determining which children in the county qualified for this special holiday assistance was different from past years. Instead of taking open enrollment and conducting several days of intensive interviews, Connecting Henry staff found another organization more suited for the selection process.

  “We worked with the school board this year and all of the counselors at the schools to identify families in need,” said Dotschay. “Since we have been working so closely with the schools, we figured that they already know who has the needs. They already have that information, so why are we going to reinvent the wheel?”

  School counselors entered the information online so that Connecting Henry personnel could schedule their shopping appointments. If a family cannot make a scheduled appointment, the parent or guardian can give his or her ID to a friend or relative who can pick up the toys for them.

  An advantage of using the school counselors for the selection process is that, by allocating a number of slots to each of the county’s 50 public schools, the final selections were guaranteed to represent every school district in Henry County.

  “All of the schools were identified,” said Dotschay. “Every-body is going to get a shot.”

  Eliminating the interview process for Connecting Henry staff was a key component of the new process as well.

  “We usually do three days of interviews, and it is pretty intense,” said Dotschay. “This new process cut down on that. We were asking all of the same questions and getting all of the same paperwork, when the school system already has it.”

  Contributions for the Toy Shop start coming in early in the fall. Connecting Henry staff members contact past partners and other organizations that could help support the program. Many individuals, businesses, civic organizations and church groups participate.

  Most of the support is through direct financial contributions, so that Connecting Henry can handle the purchasing of merchandise. Some businesses and other groups, however, prefer to sponsor toy drives and contribute those items. Dotschay pointed out that some student groups like to do their own toy shopping as part of their process.

  Municipal support is also an important part of the program. Every year McDonough Mayor Billy Copeland sends a letter to all businesses in the city asking them to help, according to Dotschay.

  A number of photos on Connecting Henry’s Facebook page have been posted to recognize local supporters of the Toy Shop. A posting at the beginning of this week made a final appeal for volunteers to work various shifts at the warehouse this week.

  Right now the space is being decorated so it will be an inviting environment for those who come to shop. One group of volunteers comes in every afternoon and sorts through the toys that have been deposited that day, seeing that each one goes on the proper shelf in the appropriate section of the store.

   It takes plenty of people to keep the Toy Shop operational, but not quite as many as in the past. Previous years would see 50 volunteers during a single shift, but this year that number will be closer to 30.

  It is the volunteer base that is the reason for operating the Toy Shop so early in December.

  “Once you start getting into the middle of December, churches are having programs and people are going to rehearsals, etc.” said Dotschay. “We know that if we don’t get ours done, we will start losing volunteers if we wait too long.”

  Even with the shop scheduled to open tomorrow, it is never too late to ask for volunteers.

  “If somebody is interested in volunteering, they should give our office a call because you never know. We might have some people drop off,” said Dotschay. “We will need help with the cleanup, because when we’re done it all has to go back to being a warehouse again.”

  Call 770-288-6230 for more information, visit www.connectinghenry.org (where you can make an online donation if you like) or check out the organization's Facebook page.

 

 

©Henry County Times, Inc.