The township high school’s junior and senior class councils hosted their 24th annual Township Toys: 24 at the Core All-Night Toy Drive earlier this month.
The annual drive has been a staple in the community since the late ‘90s, and the pandemic did not defeat charitable efforts in the township.
Class advisors Deanna Ettore, April Renzetti, Natalie Taylor and Shaun Giberson have been running the event for the last two years with the help of teachers and support staff across the school district. This drive has played a huge role in Ettore’s life since she participated as a student under teacher Carol Costello, who retired from the district two years ago.
“One thing our community and school community does is try to help those that are not able to help themselves,” Ettore said. “Costello has instilled this in the class officers and we want to continue to instill that it is not always about yourself. We want students to think about how to help others.”
Six high-school students are chairing the drive this year to come up with new ways to involve the community and find the best way to give back to Gloucester County and the surrounding area. The effort will begin with homeroom classes collecting monetary and toy donations as a bit of friendly competition. The homeroom with the largest donation will be awarded with a celebratory breakfast.
According to Ettore, that aspect of the drive was something she had participated in as a teacher for many years, winning a few of them. It’s one of the reasons she brought back the drive last year.
The effort will continue with students from the junior and senior classes collecting loose change during a coin drop at the end of the school day.
The drive will also bring holiday cheer, with the high-school band’s holiday concert band performing and a visit from Santa. Class advisors also decided for the first time to engage elementary-school students in the effort by offering a craft.
“We allow the students to tap into their classmates to see what will help this be successful as it evolves over time,” Ettore noted. “It came out on the other side of the pandemic, and we allow them to be the driving force to keep it relevant.”
Once all donations are collected, high-school students will get to work organizing them and creating holiday cards for district staff. Donations will go to multiple clubs – including Interact, class council and the middle-school’s Futureact Club – who each have their own sponsored families in need.
Each club receives a gift wish list from families with a child’s gender and age. What the toy donations don’t cover, monetary offerings will. Other donations will be distributed to local churches and nonprofits, including a group home in the township.
“To actually see the amount of generosity from the community and the school, words cannot describe it,” Ettore said. “Last year, we were able to fill up an entire classroom with items.
“It’s very humbling.”
Ettore also wants the community to know there are older children who are also in need.
“Sometimes people forget that our middle-school and high-school students are in as much need,” she explained. “They could use things like books, pencils, colored pencils, technology … Try to find items that aren’t expensive, like phone chargers or earbuds and different things that some of the older students need, don’t have, or can’t afford.”
For more information, visit https://www.wtps.org.