By DON STINE
The Asbury Park Toy Drive is now 14 years old and it keeps getting bigger and better every year.
“This is an Asbury Park-based drive and whatever is given here stays within the community. And you should see these kids faces when they get these toys,” Police Sgt. Connie Breech said.
First started in 2000 by Breech and Georgie’s Tavern, 812 Fifth Avenue, the annual toy drive, which received its non-profit status last month, has grown every year.
“The first year we got maybe a few hundred toys which were distributed to organizations in the city,” Breech said.
But last year, the toy drive received close to 1,000 toys that were distributed directly to 485 local families.
“We may be able to serve 500 families this year, I’m not sure,” Breech said.
This year’s annual toy drive will culminate on Dec. 7 at Georgie’s from 4 to 11 p.m. Other toy drives are held throughout the year but the big one is at Georgie’s, always on the first Sunday in December. Unwrapped toys and monetary donations are accepted.
Boardwalk redeveloper Madison Marquette has donated a space in the Fifth Avenue pavilion where the toys will be distributed on Dec. 20 from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m.
The Asbury Park Toy Drive has a site on Amazon.com and on Facebook where people can donate or find out more information. Donations can also be sent to AP Toy Drive, P.O. Box 1469, Asbury Park, NJ 07712.
“You can go (online) for information and also click on a wish list of toys that kids have picked out,” said Breech, who has become known throughout the city as “the toy lady.”
“In uniform or not, people recognize me and now it is going on to a second generation. One of the first kids who got a toy in 2000 is now a full-time police officer. Patrolman Jay’von Britt was that kid and it is starting to come full circle. He is living proof that, yes, it can make a difference,” she said.
People wanting to get toys for their children can fill out an application at police headquarters that contains basic information, such as the age and gender of the children. Children eligible to participate in the program are from newborns to 15 years old.