Carol Retcher, associate pastor, and Jim Fry, pastor of Free Christian Church of God in Continental, help load toys bound for New York and the families of victims in the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center.
CONTINENTAL, Ohio - On Sunday, a New York-bound tractor-trailer will leave northwest Ohio bulging with toys.
Those thousands of toys will be given to children whose families were victims in the New York disaster.
The new-toy giveaway is the result of a show of generosity by people in this corner of northwest Ohio.
“The truck is full,” said Kristie Stollsteimer, who set the toy project in motion. By Sunday, she said, two truckloads might roll toward New York.
Mrs. Stollsteimer, 23, of Defiance, began the project a week after the day that more than 6,000 people lost their lives when two commercial airliners were used to destroy the World Trade Center towers in a terrorist attack. People and businesses have donated new toys and money to buy toys. “Have we ever got toys!” Mrs. Stollsteimer exclaimed. “The response has been wonderful, overwhelming.”
Like many, Mrs. Stollsteimer was touched by the sudden plight of so many, especially children whose families had been torn asunder by death or injury of a parent or parents' loss of job and income. She said she felt moved to do something to bring comfort and smiles to small faces.
“It started with God laying it on somebody's heart. In other words, this project was led by the Lord,” Mrs. Stollsteimer said.
She and others who pitched in did not expect the collection to reach such proportions. “As powerful as it's been, I still didn't think we'd get this much response. It's a real blessing, and only getting better,” she said.
“I'm sure we can fill a second semi. We'll need another truck.”
To which Bob Zachrich, owner of Zachrich Trucking Co. of near Holgate, said: “That's not a problem.”
Mr. Zachrich has donated truck, driver, and fuel for the drive to New York.
“It's my small effort to help,” Mr. Zachrich said. “It's heartbreaking to know that so many families had loss of life in such a tragic way. Addressing the needs of the children like this is needed, along with other help.
“When Kristie asked, I instantly made up my mind to give her what she needed. We all help whatever way we can.”
The driver of the toy-laden truck will be Donnie Cox of Roseville, Ill. “He told me he'd like to drive and would not expect to be paid,” Mr. Zachrich said.
A sign: “Sending God's Love To New York” and two eight-foot crosses are on the truck's side.
And if another semi-trailer is needed? “They got it, “ Mr. Zachrich said, adding that he had several other drivers who would like to make the trip.
So far, they have raised about $7,500 and have bought almost 6,000 toys. Donations have come from people and businesses in Defiance, Putnam, Henry, and Paulding counties. The Free Christian Church, near Continental, which is the toy and money collection site, donated $3,300, Mrs. Stollsteimer said. Two businesses each contributed $500.
The most touching donation was a year's savings of allowance handed over by a small boy: 10 $5 bills, she said.
Meijer stores allowed toys to be purchased at a discount. “We cleaned out a few stores,'' Mrs. Stollsteimer said.
The toys will be trucked to the First Far Rockaway Church of God in New York and will be distributed at outreach centers for World Vision and Concerts of Prayer organizations. Toys not given to children touched by the tragedy will be dispersed at Christmas time, Mrs. Stollsteimer said.