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Hundreds of families helped by holiday initiative

SCRANTON, LACKAWANNA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — What’s the holiday season without toys when it comes to kids? Not a very merry one which is why a local non-profit stepped-in Tuesday to bring joy to nearly 2,000 children. Eyewitness News Reporter Mark Hiller takes us to the massive toy giveaway.

It’s a holiday season giveaway so big it requires a gymnasium. Tables full of toys filled the University of Scranton’s Byron Recreation Center. The toys are bound for homes of nearly 700 struggling families. Jenny Mateo’s family is one of them.

“It’s very nice to have toys for the whole family. Yeah, I’m very grateful to be here,” she said.

This mother of four from Scranton picked out multiple toys for her children. When asked how much more special this makes Christmas for her family Ms. Mateo said, “Very special because, you know, I’m a single mom.”

Much of the need at the toy distribution is for underemployed families or those just feeling the financial strain. Father of six Sandzhar Dagiyanov was trying to figure out a way to make the holiday season memorable for his children.

“More overtime and buy them toys or whatever they want you know?” When asked if the giveaway makes it easier, the Scranton man said, “Yeah, this is a lot easier.”

It’s more than just toys helping families at the distribution. There were tables and racks filled with clothing helping meet a real need. Coats, shirts and pants and even pajamas were available.

“Yes, we want kids to have toys and the magic of Christmas but we also want them to stay healthy and warm,” said Friends of the Poor President/CEO Meghan Loftus.

Friends of the Poor enlisted the help of Catholic Social Services, Toys for Tots, businesses and organizations and community members. Spreading holiday cheer is important to volunteers like Harold Strickland of Old Forge.

“I came from a place we didn’t have much when we were kids and everything. We help a lot of kids in the community who don’t have anything under their tree for Christmas,” he said.

Ms. Loftus added, “The donations, the volunteers are fantastic. We love to see that grow. Unfortunately, the need is growing. We wish that it wouldn’t but it’s really why we’re here. So as long as there’s a need we’ll be here.”

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