The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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November 25, 2012

Toy fund means as much to volunteers as kids

— With more than 4,000 underprivileged children served in Raleigh County last year, the effect Mac’s Toy Fund has on families in need is astounding.

But beyond those numbers, Mac’s Toy Fund “means every bit as much for the volunteers as it does for the kids who get the toys. It’s not all about the receiving, it’s about the giving and helping,” explained toy fund vice president Pete Torrico.

Torrico began, like many of Mac’s helpers, as a Boy Scout.

Today his mother, who fondly bore the title “The Doll Lady” for her work refurbishing dolls for many years, as well as his siblings and nieces, kick off their own family Christmas celebration by helping to prepare for the Mac’s Toy Fund distribution party.

But that’s more common than not among volunteers, he said.

“Every year as soon as the first story runs in The Register-Herald, people are calling and wanting to volunteer. There are people I see only once a year — the day of the distribution party,” he shared. “Each year we have people volunteering for the first time and people who have been devoted for decades.”

He sees men who volunteered as Scouts and are now Scout leaders bringing their troops to the distribution party.

“The thing that really inspires me is how many volunteers are kids that were once served by Mac’s Toy Fund,” Torrico said.

“The need has never diminished. It seems like every year we send out more and more invitations, but the contributions and willing volunteers have also grown alongside that need.”

Sherrie Hunter, who has been the fund’s treasurer since 1992, explained that, for her, seeing “random acts of kindness” each year is what keeps her dedicated to the project.

Like all volunteers at the distribution party, Hunter can share many stories from the past, each one touching and evocative of what The Holiday Spirit should be.

She distinctly remembers a young redheaded boy whose parents let him go through the line and choose his toys himself while they watched from above in the convention center.

“We escort people through and they get to choose a new toy, a used toy, a stuffed animal, a doll and a bag of fruit and nuts. At the end of the line families can pick a winter coat.

“This young boy said to me, ‘Miss Sherrie, it was really cold this morning when we were in line. Before I get my toys, can I pick out a coat for my mom first?’”

Hunter said it is moments like those that make the bustling, talking and noise fall away.

“I told him that he was a very special young man for putting his mother’s needs before his own and for being selfless,” she explained.

From one little girl who fell in love with a simple rag doll amid a table of pristine and primped dolls to the family that shares their bike ticket with a family that does not already have a bike, it is the countless small moments of selflessness and gratitude that have the largest impact on volunteers’ hearts.

“To think that one person — Mr. Ted ‘Mac’ McDowell — had the idea to start a toy fund 82 years ago and today thousands and thousands of people have had Christmas in their homes and hearts, is inspiring. It tells us that what we do can make a difference,” Hunter added.

To make a monetary donation to Mac’s Toy Fund, mail checks to Mac’s Toy Fund, P.O. Box 2398, Beckley, WV 25802.

Used toys and dolls should be dropped off at BJW Printing and Office Supplies, 3100 Robert C. Byrd Drive, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Used bikes can be dropped off behind the right side of the Beckley-Raleigh County Convention Center on North Eisenhower Drive or at Beckley Fire Station No. 3, also on North Eisenhower.

New or gently used coats can be dropped off at Family Coin Laundry on Robert C. Byrd Drive.

This year’s Mac’s Toy Fund Distribution Party is scheduled for Dec. 15; invitations will be sent by the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Services; postage is paid by the toy fund.

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