Arizona Helping Hands celebrates its 20th annual holiday toy drive, growth

Dan Shufelt, executive director of Arizona Helping Hands, and AHH Board Member Gail Coronato organize holiday toy drive conducted by the organization in 2016. (File photo)

For more than 20 years, Arizona Helping Hands has given Arizona children hundreds of thousands of holiday toys.

According to a press release, Paul and Kathy Donaldson wanted to fulfill a dream that every child would have a toy to open during the holidays. The Arizona Helping Hands Holiday Toy Drive started from a dream that began in 1998 in their North Phoenix garage.

The three women most responsible for the success of Arizona Helping Hand’s annual holiday toy drive for the past 20 years: Kathy Donaldson, Gail Coronato and Jean Nelson. (File photo)

The couple recognized that family issues, financial struggles and more put a damper on the season for many children.

In the first year, 300 children received toys, the release noted, crediting collection drives in local businesses and support from friends and family that supplied and distributed dolls, games and other toys to needy kids.

Forward to 2017, the release said established relationships with more local companies, national supporters and families understanding the importance of sharing their blessings with others less fortunate resulted in 17,000 children receiving toys in December.

Major employers including Southwest Airlines, UPS and the Bob Parsons group of companies hold drives and collection events to assist in efforts. Hundreds assist throughout November and December to sort and organize toys.

Posters, boxes and other materials are available for a successful drive or event, the release noted.

The seasonal program has been led by Ms. Donaldson with fellow volunteers, Gail Coronato and Jean Nelson, who are dedicated to making the holidays happy for every boy and girl every year as an act of love to spread the joy of the season, the release added.

Every year there are innumerable moments of connection with families, moments of joy and gratitude, according to the release.

Assisting the many kids is possible through community support; businesses holding drives and collecting dolls, games, remote controlled cars and every imaginable item for kids.

Fill Santa’s Sleigh, which is an open house for the community to unite to support the Toy Drive is 5-7 p.m., Wednesday, Dec. 5 at 3110 E. Thunderbird Road, Phoenix. There will be a tour of the new Arizona Helping Hands facility. Admission is free with toy donations.

For more information and to support the Holiday Toy drive, contact ssiegel@azhelpinghands.org.

Learn more about the organization that’s noted as the largest provider of basic needs to Arizona’s children in foster care at azhelpinghands.org; contact Arizona Helping Hands President/CEO Dan Shufelt at dshufelt@azhelpinghands.org.

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