By Megan Alley
It’s the season for giving thanks, and the perfect opportunity for the community to pay it forward by playing Santa to the 280 kids currently in Clermont County Children’s Protective Services’ custody.
Through the Community Toy Chest program, which is more than three decades old, residents, churches, businesses and organizations in the county can sponsor children to help make sure they have presents to unwrap on Christmas Day.
The age range of the children, who have been removed from their homes due to abuse and/or neglect, is from infancy to 18.
Sanna Gast, Administrative Supervisor III for CPS, has served as the program’s coordinator for the past 28 years.
She explained the significant role the Community Toy Chest plays in children’s lives.
“The reason it’s important is that each child is able to have an amazing magical Christmas holiday,” Gast said. “Just being able to make one day out of the year special for these kids.”
She added, “The other 364 days of the year, these children have it tough; not being with their families.”
Those interested in sponsoring a child will get a first name, age and a wish list from Gast. They are asked to shop for the child and turn in gifts by a certain date.
Monetary donations — with checks made out to “Community Toy Chest” are also welcome; CPS staff can pool together donations to buy gift cards or electronic gifts for older youth.
Additionally, the program is in need of holiday food baskets for CPS foster families, and general unwrapped gifts for children, including learning/educational toys; CPS will accept donations through Dec. 24.
Gast typically starts receiving sponsor gifts on Dec. 1 and accepts them through Dec. 13, after which she and her staff sort and distribute the gifts.
So far, as one might guess, the longstanding program has been a success.
“I have many sponsors that come back year after year,” Gast said. “They’ve been very faithful to our kids here in Clermont County.”
Gast said that many of the older children write thank you notes to their sponsors, and the younger kids will color a picture to tell “Santa” thanks.
“For me, I heartened just knowing that the community and everyone come together to make this program a success so that these kids can have one magical day and feel very special,” Gast added. “It warms my heart. It’s a passion for me, and my favorite time of year.”
Those interested in sponsoring a child or a family can contact Gast at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Monetary donations can be dropped off or mailed to CPS, located at 2400 Clermont Center Drive. Gift donations may also be dropped off at the office.