Santa’s Free Toyshop needed now more than ever

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Chloe Robertson, 13, stands with her former teacher Kirsten Sullivan who is holding her daughter, Kaitlyn, 4. Chloe Robertson, 13, stands with her former teacher Kirsten Sullivan who is holding her daughter, Kaitlyn, 4.

GALLOWAY – Emerging as a major helper at Santa’s Free Toyshop this year is Chloe Robertson, 13, of Galloway.

The partners running the five-year-old event, which provides toys and clothing from donors free to the area’s needy, are township teachers Kim Gollub and Kirsten Sullivan.

Sullivan was Robertson’s teacher.

“I was in Kirsten Sullivan’s first-grade class seven years ago,” Robertson said Saturday, Dec. 8. “We’ve stayed close through the years. I went with her five weeks ago to Brigantine. My mom had five carloads of donations that we took to Ventnor, the Brigantine Community Center and other places.”

Robertson said she was also helping set up the toyshop the weekend before at Reformation Lutheran Church across from Veterans Memorial Park on Route 9 where the project has been housed since its inception.

“I organized donations and brought them to the cellar,” Robertson said. “I also put games and puzzles on the shelves up here.”

She said she loves the program.

“It’s great for people to be able to ‘buy’ stuff for their kids with no money, so kids can have a great Christmas,” Robertson said. “When Jesus was born he was unable to stay at the hotel. He was born in a barn – and he ended up being God’s child. It’s wonderful to go from something so little to something so big.”

She said people have been generous during perhaps the hardest times seen in several generations.

“How amazing it is that people are donating,” Robertson said. “It’s good that they are. People really need it. The Haitian community in Atlantic City was hit very hard. They didn’t have much to begin with. And they lost everything.”

She said it was hard to figure how to help the most.

“Where to start?” Robertson said. “Toothbrushes, toothpaste – other toiletries? Food, clothing, other supplies? They really need everything. Winter coats because it’s going to be cold. Everybody’s going to have to come together. That’s what Christmas is all about.”

Sullivan, who teaches at Arthur Rann Elementary School, said it’s been great working with Robertson.

“I had her brother last year; I’m friends with her mom,” she said. “Her dad and my cousin were good friends.”

She said it was very natural.

Gollub, a first-grade teacher at Smithville Elementary School, said that due to the economy and Hurricane Sandy, she expects more shoppers than in the past.

“Driving in today I was thinking how far we’ve come from shopping at the dollar store for items to give away,” she said. “Now we have a ‘new room.’ When people come they fill out a slip with the name, age and sex of their child. We make sure they get one new item. There are new coats, toys and dolls.”

John and Diane Bianchini have also been working at the toyshop.

Gollub said they call the cellar “John’s workshop.” Many donated items need to be cleaned. Those needing some repair go to John Bianchini.

“We’re members of the church,” he said. “That’s how we heard about this and became involved.”

His wife said it was a rewarding experience.

“People are just unbelievably generous,” Diane Bianchini said.

Gently used toys, children’s coats, hats and gloves, holiday decorations, baby clothing and items can still be dropped off 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday Dec. 15.

Shopping for free will be 1-4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 16 and 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 22. Call (609) 338-9845 for information.

Kim Gollub, left, with Santa’s Free Toyshop volunteers John and Diane Bianchini of Galloway. Kim Gollub, left, with Santa’s Free Toyshop volunteers John and Diane Bianchini of Galloway.

Kirsten Sullivan carries a bin full of donations to the basement of Reformation Lutheran Church in Galloway. Kirsten Sullivan carries a bin full of donations to the basement of Reformation Lutheran Church in Galloway.


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