Christmas will be a little bit happier for some disadvantaged kids this year. An Amherst volunteer group has collected toys and clothes for several Catholic social service agencies.
The Explorers of Post 2283, headquartered at the Main-Transit Fire Department, spearheaded a toy drive for the needy children of Western New York in November. The Explorers are high school-aged teens who meet monthly to learn about fire safety, then pass that information to friends and family. For eight years they have collected and distributed toys to several social service agencies. This year's recipients include St. Gianna Molla Pregnancy Outreach Center, St. Vincent de Paul Society and Baker Victory Services.
Skylar Zuckerman, 16, organized this year's toy drive.
"I am interested in stuff like this," she said before November meeting. "I took the committee spot, and two or three other girls followed me because they were interested too. I like shopping for others, donating, making other people happy."
The Explorers raised money with a candy bar sale. That money will be used to purchase items that are needed, but not donated.
Cheryl Calire, director of the diocesan Office of Pro-Life Activities, which oversees St. Gianna's, spoke about the center. Now in its fifth year of operation, St. Gianna's helps women and men facing unplanned pregnancy by providing essentials for their children. With new satellite offices in Niagara and Chautauqua counties, the center serves all eight counties of the diocese.
Calire thanked the volunteers for their work in collecting toys.
"The coloring books and the crayons that you provide or the gloves, sometimes that is literally the only thing that they have under their tree, if they're fortunate enough to have a tree," she said.
The Amherst Fire Council has conducted toy drives for the past 12 years. This year the Main-Transit Fire Department has taken over for the Swormville Fire Department, which had been running the drive for the past 11 years.
"We're trying to let our Explorers know that there are children and young adults out there who need something," said Bruce Krebs, one of the advisors for the Explorers.
The Explorer program trains its member in first aid and many aspects for firefighting and rescue skills. Members with CPR and Emergency Fire Apprenticeship Training can respond to emergency calls.
"We learn all the fire safety procedures, anything that has to do with fire regulations," said Zuckerman. "We help run things around here too. We clean trucks. We help organize events. We have an installation dinner yearly. It's an annual thing. It basically celebrates us, being here and helping out the community."
Donations will be accepted until Dec. 14. Anyone wishing to donate may drop off a gift at the Main-Transit Fire Station, 6777 Main St., Amherst.