BATAVIA – Roy Bailey, organizer of the Batavia ACCESS Committee’s Annual Toy Drive, is a little worried because he’s well short of the number of toys needed to fulfill the wishes of the 675 children on his list this year.
But he has faith the community will fully support the endeavor and that every single child in need in Batavia will receive a toy for Christmas.
Bailey, 62, has faith because his mother had faith in the toy drive. His mother, Mildred, ran the toy drive for 30 years with two other people before she passed away two years ago and Bailey took control.
The toy distribution is on a Sunday, and he recalls when his mother was running the toy drive how entire tables where people would choose toys from would still be empty on the Thursday before. Bailey’s mother would tell him, “Don’t worry. The toys will be there.”
When the time came to distribute the toys, the toys were miraculously there. Bailey asked his mother where the toys came from. “The Lord sent them,” she replied. Although wanting to believe in a Christmas miracle, toy drive volunteer Rudy Dubis figured someone physically brought the toys. But he never discovered who it was.
“We never did get an answer,” Dubis said.
Bailey is hoping for another miracle this year.
“This has probably been the worst year for donations,” Bailey said.
He blames continuing economic woes for families.
Bailey said clubs that used to provide money don’t exist anymore and some corporations no longer donate. Still, he’s optimistic.
“I know we’re going to make it this year,” Bailey told the Batavia City Council on Monday. Bailey told the council that toy drive organizers mostly need toys, games, books, puzzles, hats and gloves for children ages 10 to 15.
“That’s where we could really some help,” Bailey said.
Batavia Mayor Jeff Schielke offered his own theory about why donations were falling short this year. He blames it on the weather. Schielke said a woman called him about wanting to contribute to the toy drive and had almost forgot about it.
He said she wasn’t in the Christmas spirit, yet, because of the unseasonably warm temperatures in the beginning of December.
Still, Schielke said it was important for Batavia residents to support the toy drive.
“The list seems to grow larger every year,” Schielke said. “... We’re here to try and take of our very own.”
The last day to donate toys is Friday, and the toys will be distributed Sunday at the Christmas Toy Store in downtown Batavia. Organizers typically have no shortage of volunteers during the distribution.
Dubis said volunteers come from all over the community, such as the Batavia Mothers’ Club, Batavia High School football and baseball teams, police officers and firefighters.
“We have a lot of people who come and help us on the day of giving,” Dubis said. “It’s a huge community effort.”
Long lines around the block are expected this Sunday. In fact, Bailey said recipients usually start lining up at around 3 a.m. even though the doors don’t open until 2 p.m. People can choose items on a first-come, first-served basis. And some of the hot items, such as video games, iPods, bicycles or TVs are usually the first to go.
Bailey said parents can choose which toys their child should get because they know their own children better than anyone. Still in the past, he said some parents have been too embarrassed to come to the Christmas Toy Store even though they signed up because their children were in need. So, Bailey would deliver the toys to their homes, leave them on the porch and then ring the bell before leaving.
“There are no poor kids in Batavia,” Bailey said. “There are needy kids, and we all have needs. My mother always told me that.”
Before she died, Bailey promised his mother that he would keep the toy drive going. This year, he just wants to ensure that every child in need receives a toy as they have in every year of the drive.
“It takes the whole community to get behind this to do this,” Dubis said.
How to help
Donations of unwrapped, new or gently used clean toys, book, games or puzzles can be dropped off at the east or west side fire stations, the Batavia Library, Curves on East Wilson Street, Pal Joey’s Restaurant, Zano’s Salon and Funway. Gift cards and checks made out to the Batavia ACCESS Committee can be dropped off at the Batavia Police Station.