Centreville Our Neighbor’s Child (ONC) held toy drives last Saturday, Dec. 1, outside two local Walmarts and both were big successes.
Holly Cameron organized the one staffed by Creative Dance Center’s (CDC) competitive dance team at the Dulles Expo Center store, and Phyllis White organized the one at the Fair Lakes store manned by members of Phase Cheer & Dance. And both volunteers were delighted with the results.
“I’m thrilled with the new location, the participation we’ve seen and the outpouring of generosity right here in Chantilly,” said Cameron. “For example, one gentleman went right by us outside and we didn’t think he was going to donate anything. But he came out with a whole shopping cart full of toys, which he donated. He even gave us a cheese platter to snack on while we worked.”
Some 25 CDC dancers and about 10 parents worked in three shifts outside the Dulles Expo Walmart and were glad to do it. With so much need in the community, said Cameron, “The dancers may see a coat they donated being worn by a child sitting next to them in class.”
She also praised store manager Regina Drinkard for being so nice to the ONC volunteers. “She’s just been so wonderful to us,” said Cameron. “She made sure we had everything we need and was very accommodating to our dancers.”
In turn, Drinkard was in awe of the community’s response to the toy drive. “The outpouring was unbelievable,” she said. “And the children aren’t asking for electronics – they’re asking for coats, shoes, baby dolls and books.”
Meanwhile, at the Fair Lakes site, White and Phase coach Joy Hansen worked from 9 a.m.-3 p.m., along with 16 Phase cheerleaders and some members of Westfield High’s National Honor Society. “It went very well,” said White. “We set up a tree outside the store and people took ornaments from it and bought the specific gifts requested on the ornaments.”
“We got a tremendous amount of gifts,” continued White. “People were so generous. And when they came out of the store and gave the girls the toys to put into the donation box, the girls were so excited.”
She said it was wonderful to see the community’s generosity to those less fortunate. “We even got $185 in monetary donations,” said White. “It was very heartwarming, all around. One couple pulled up in an SUV and the husband said, ‘I need all your elves to help.’ So we all unloaded presents from the whole back of his car.”
All in all, she said, “I think it’s good for the kids to see how generous people can be. And the Phase Cheer & Dance members also felt good about what they’d done.”
And so does White; it’s her first season volunteering with ONC and, besides organizing a toy drive, she’s helped make an ONC brochure, labels for cookie containers, nametags for volunteers and signs for the giving trees. She also returned to the Dulles Expo Walmart this week to pick up five more bags full of toys from the giving tree inside that store and brought more gift-wish ornaments to place on it. But she’s glad to do it. Said White: “I’ve thoroughly enjoyed everything I’ve done.”
She’s also coordinating a book drive that the Barnes & Noble in Springfield is holding for ONC. Each year, the company holds a holiday book drive and, this time, it’s picked ONC to be its recipient.
“They’re expecting to receive over 3,000 new books donated to the drive,” said ONC Executive Director Kelly Lavin. “We have 2,300 children to provide for, so that’s at least a book per child, which is phenomenal.”
In addition, GMU’s Phi Beta Phi adult fraternity contributed $1,500 worth of books that ONC chose from FirstBook, which provides books to nonprofits. And Mary Evelyn Anderson, a former sixth-grade reading teacher at Virginia Run Elementary, teamed up with that school’s librarian to make the book selections for each age group. Said Lavin: “Mary Evelyn said they wanted to choose children’s books that ‘would spark their love of reading.’”