Relying on the brisk pace of their work to keep them warm Thursday, several men hustled between an unheated suburban warehouse and its loading dock, where an icy breeze blew in through open bay doors. Traffic was constant in both directions.
This time of year, the toy warehouse in Amherst is a busy place.
“We hand out, but we also receive,” explained Maura Duggan, a spokeswoman for Olmsted Center for Sight, which administers the Western New York Holiday Partnership and the warehouse.
Pallet trucks wheeled cartons of donations from Fisher-Price out to the loading docks as volunteers from the Marine Corps Reserve hauled in huge plastic bags filled with toys donated at stores or other sites participating in the Marine Corps Toys for Tots program.
All of the toys and games were donated to the holiday partnership, in partnership with The News Neediest Fund.
Now in its 32nd year, The News Neediest Fund last year raised $195,580, which provided holiday meals for 12,000 families and holiday gifts for about 11,000 children.
Taking a break from his regular job as a clerk in the Olmsted manufacturing department, Nathan Krempa was coordinating activity in the warehouse, where donations are sorted and separated for distribution by other partner agencies.
“Pretty much everything that a kid could ask for is here,” Krempa said.
Piles of toys are stacked beneath signs that identify the agencies that ultimately will distribute them. They include F.A.T.H.E.R.S., Hamburg Youth Bureau, Boys and Girls Clubs of the Northtowns and numerous religious organizations.
The warehouse space, donated by Benderson Development Co., opened right after Thanksgiving to accept and store donations. But by mid-December, representatives of partner agencies already were stopping by to collect their share.
Agencies receive a percentage of those donations, based on the number of people they served the year before.
Records are computerized, and an anti-duplication database ensures the toys reach the largest number of children.
The volume of toys in the warehouse changes constantly.
“I got almost 60 pallets from Fisher-Price the other day,” Krempa said Thursday. “The whole center of the room was just full.”
Out on the loading dock, Marine Reservists Justin Ramos, of Cheektowaga, and Michael Higgins, of Buffalo, were emptying a cube truck filled with toys, games, stuffed animals and even a boy’s bicycle with a helmet attached. The cargo had been rounded up from collection bins.
Ramos said he’s been volunteering with Toys for Tots as long as he’s been a Marine.
“I have been doing it for five years now,” he said.
“A good deed for the kids,” Ramos replied.
This is the first year Higgins has been involved with Toys for Tots. “It’s just a good cause,” he said.