BRISTOL - Families came to Wojtusik Nursery by the dozen to meet Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus Sunday, some with toys in hand for less fortunate boys and girls.
The garden center at 750 Terryville Avenue is an official donation location of the Marine Corps Reserve Toys-for-Tots program in Hartford County. Sunday’s Holiday Open House invigorated the drive, as visitors dropped new and unwrapped toys into one of several large collection boxes placed throughout the store.
Donations will be accepted until Dec. 16. Then they will be brought to the Naval & Marine Reserve Center in Plainville, where sorting and distribution takes place.
Last year Wojtusik’s stuffed three boxes to the brim. This year staff hope to fill four boxes before Christmas.
“Today really boosts people’s awareness for Toys-for-Tots,” event manager Cynthia Schug pointed out. “They see the boxes and want to jump in and help.”
Marine Reservist volunteers usually come to the store’s annual holiday open house to facilitate the drive, but were unable to make it this year.
“Because it was Thanksgiving weekend it made it difficult,” Schug explained. “These men and women are pulled from all across the U.S. for the region’s Toys-for-Tots program. They’re home with their families for the holiday.”
Gift requests from individual families will not be accepted this year, according to the organization’s website. Toys will only be distributed by participating non-profit and charitable organizations in Hartford County.
Area businesses like Wojtusik’s serve as collection sites. Schug got the nursery involved seven or eight years ago.
“This was something I’ve always done where I worked and we carried the tradition on here,” she said. “It’s great because the toys are staying local in our community. It all fits together for us, being a Christmas shop. We’re so grateful people turned out to make donations today and we hope a lot more come in the next few weeks.”
Children and their parents climbed the staircase past glimmering garlands Sunday, to find Santa and Mrs. Claus awaiting their arrival. The pair sat with each child, posed for photographs and bid them farewell with small gifts.
Faces were painted downstairs while shoppers browsed the store, which sells everything one might need to decorate for the holidays. It was hard to miss owner Peter Wojtusik, churning out hot popped corn and fresh apple cider in the middle of the floor.
“It’s lovely to see all the people here today,” he said.
Erica Schmitt can be reached at 860-801-5097, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Other Toys-For-Tots Drop-off Stations
Select Physical Therapy, 255 N. Main St. Bristol
EZ Storage, 751 W. Queen St. Southington
JEKL, LLC, 75 Farmington Valley Drive, Plainville
Yankee Harley-Davidson, 488 Farmington Ave., Bristol
Wireless Zone, 1188 Farmington Ave., Bristol
American Eagle Financial Credit Union, 378 New Britain Ave., Plainville
A.C. Moore, 284 New Britain Ave., Plainville