SALEM TOWNSHIP -- It's the first year without a Toys For Tots program in part of the Poconos, but a new group has jumped in to help give needy kids a merry Christmas.
Little more than a month until Santa does his thing and already Jim Zumpone is doing his part to make the holiday season a bit brighter for kids in need.
Zumpone was dropping off donation boxes for the new holiday toy drive at Evergreen Elementary School near Hamlin. The drive is an attempt to fill the void left by the Wayne Pike Toys For Tots which folded earlier this year.
"Last year, they served 3,212 kids, just the Toys For Tots program. If we do one-third of that, I'd consider it a success," Zumpone said.
Toys For Tots of Wayne and Pike Counties was just one of several programs that helped serve underprivileged kids during the holiday season, and without Toys For Tots, Zumpone says the burden started to mount.
"They were all getting inundated; they couldn't take up all that slack. If we help them a little bit, we'll be happy."
In addition to the schools, there are lots of dropoff locations including Wayne County Ford on Route 6 near Honesdale where the dealership partnered with Toys For Tots in the past to stuff as many pickup trucks with toys as possible.
"This year, it's a slower start than they say they had, it's still important," said Roger Kowalski, Wayne County Ford.
In years past, Wayne County Ford near Honesdale has stuffed about a half-dozen trucks with toys for children in need. Now without Toys For Tots and with the holiday toy drive, this place and other locations that accept donations are hoping they get as much as previous years.
"It's just a little happiness this time of year. I'm more about hand up than hand out, but these kids don't really have a choice of the situations they're in."