Levi Brice, 8, left, stands ready to help as Matt Homik, center, and Tom Brice load a car with food. The recipient was among about 100 served Saturday.
Out of work and out of money, Rhonda Taylor looked for a new start.
She thinks she may have found one in Perrysburg Township, and a community drive to help brighten Christmas for area residents reinforced the thought.
Ms. Taylor lost her job in 2008, and she struggled to get her foot in the door with employers in Rhode Island. Their savings depleted, Ms. Taylor, her husband, and three children packed up a car with little more than their clothes and headed west, looking for a new start.
They settled in northwest Ohio.
The area hasn't been exactly a gold mine for the Taylors. They still struggle to find work. Unable to pay the rent, they just lost use of a storage locker for belongings.
But things are looking up, Ms. Taylor says. The family bought a trailer, her husband started school at Owens Community College, and on Saturday, they found a community's helping hand in the holiday season.
Rossford Fire Explorer Justin Klocko, center, and volunteer firefighter Sara Rynski, right, help distribute food. The annual Operation Bread Basket was Saturday in Perrysburg Township.
“This is our Christmas,” she said, surrounded by aisles of clothing in the Perrysburg Township office complex.
Saturday was Perrysburg Township’s annual Operation Breadbasket. A joint operation of township departments and Perrysburg Christians United, the annual collection drive provides food, clothes, home goods, and toys for families screened through the Salvation Army.
A month before the giveaway, items are collected for distribution, township recreation director Bob Warnimont said. Organizers try to keep the number of recipients to about 100 for logistics, but Mr. Warnimont said the drive could easily balloon to 800 families if there was no limit.
Efforts are made to buy gifts and food locally, and most recipients are from the township or Perrysburg city, so most of the money and benefits stay local.
The drive was started more than three decades ago by Perrysburg Township police dispatchers at the urging of the late Perrysburg Township Police Chief Cloyce McGiffin.
Dispatchers wrapped gifts in between calls and distributed food out of the township’s garage. Dawn Langenderfer, a retired dispatcher and police officer who helped start the drive, said organizers and volunteers needed little prompting to help.
Volunteer Scott Upton, 12, helps with the bags of toys during the collection drive.
“It came from the heart,” Ms. Langenderfer said. “We wanted to do something kind for someone who wouldn’t normally have a Christmas without [the donations].”
Over the years, the drive grew, with more gifts for children and more families served. This year, more than 130 children received five new toys each.
On Saturday, families streamed into the township facilities, picked up toys and food, and sifted through tables covered in clothes organized by size while volunteers helped. The event doesn’t just help parents give their children Christmas. After all, the holidays are just as much about giving as receiving.
“This is Christmas for me,” Sharon Upton of Perrysburg Christians United said of helping with the collection drive.
Crystal Estep recently returned to Perrysburg after living elsewhere for years, and she said it was good to be back. As she looked for clothes for her three children, she said the drive is a benefit for the community.
“It feels good to have people who care and help those that really need it,” Ms. Estep said.
Days like Saturday make Ms. Taylor think she’s found the right town.
“It's refreshing,” she said of the collection drive. “It’s like what my community used to look like 20 years ago.”
Contact Nolan Rosenkrans at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6086.