Season of Hope Toy Drive kicks off

Newton. The Season of Hope Initiative needs the community’s help to bring gifts to children in less fortunate families this holiday season.

| 08 Nov 2022 | 01:10

There’s a friendly competition going on between about 40 area schools.

The premise?

Which can gather the most toys to stuff a bus and ensure that less fortunate families are able to have toys for their children this holiday season. Last year, Pope John Middle School won the competition, and this year’s is already underway, the winner of which receives a trophy, about the size of the Stanley Cup, to keep for one year and bragging rights.

“The Sussex County Superintendents’ Roundtable Association is proud to support the Season of Hope Toy Drive again this year,” said Dr. Joseph Piccirillo, Hopatcong School District Superintendent and President of the Sussex County Superintendents’ Roundtable Association. “As superintendents, we interact with countless families each day and we know firsthand how many are struggling to make ends meet. We are grateful for the work that Project Self-Sufficiency does in our schools throughout the year and particularly thankful for the joy the Season of Hope Toy Drive brings our less fortunate families this time of year.”

The annual Season of Hope Toy Drive was launched by Project Self-Sufficiency and a conglomeration of businesses, schools, and social service agencies on Friday morning. The massive undertaking aims to provide gift cards and new, unwrapped toys to parents and caregivers of more than 2,000 children and teens in the Sussex and northern Warren counties. The toy drive is a joint effort which is driven and coordinated by Project Self-Sufficiency, along with its community partners, to benefit local families in need. Donations are needed immediately and can be made in-person at the Newton agency. Additional toy drop-off sites throughout the area will be added shortly. Monetary donations are also accepted online.

“It’s really such an amazing annual event conducted by the community for the community,” said Deborah Berry-Toon, Project Self-Sufficiency’s executive director. “It’s also a way to show people that we are here for them, not just at Christmastime, but throughout the year.”

The annual Season of Hope Toy Drive has served thousands of children and teens in northwestern New Jersey for many years. The initiative solicits donations from individuals, businesses, civic organizations, schools, youth groups, athletic teams and other groups throughout November and early December. Toys and gift cards are collected and assembled in Project Self-Sufficiency’s Great Room, and then less fortunate parents can pick out items for their children. In doing so, they become acquainted with Project Self-Sufficiency and all of the many wonderful community services it offers.

New Jersey State Senator Steve Oroho has never missed a Toy Drive kickoff.

“The holiday season is a time for us to come together to support those in need and teach our own children the value of making a difference in the lives of the less fortunate,” Oroho said. “It truly underscores the meaning of love your neighbor as yourself.”

Stocker Bus Company owner Denise Current, volunteers her buses to pick up toys gathered by the area schools.

“The Season of Hope Campaign not only brightens the lives of those families that receive, but it also fulfills the lives of those who give,” Current said.

Selective Insurance, in Branchville, holds an annual Build-a-Bike competition where employees compete to build bikes the fastest. The bikes are then taken to Project Self-Sufficiency where the Newton High Robotics teams checks to make sure they’re strongly assembled and ready to go as part of the Toy Drive.

Former Sussex County Commissioner and longtime Season of Hope supporter, Sylvia Petillo, was on hand for the kickoff-- as she always is—and her words were poignant and spot on.

“The Season of Hope Toy Drive and Project Self-Sufficiency give a sense of dignity and belonging,” she said. “It is love that defines self-sufficiency.”