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Help for the littlest victims

PLAINS TWP. – Walking into a back room of the township municipal building could be a dream come true for children whose homes and belongings were damaged or destroyed by flooding, a welcome departure from the nightmare they and their parents have been through over the past few weeks.

Toys, toys and more toys – stacks and piles and rows of them – is what the children will find, and the playthings are theirs for the taking.

“I’d say there are thousands,” said township resident Melissa Sabol, who started a toy drive for the children of area flood victims just two weeks ago along with her friend and former classmate Kristy Piccolotti of Denver, Colo.

Sabol and Piccolotti attended Meyers High School in Wilkes-Barre together, and Piccolotti, though thousands of miles away, still has family locally and follows area news, Sabol said.

When Piccolotti heard of the flooding, “she cleaned out her little boy’s playroom and sent toys to me” to donate to flood victims, Sabol said.

So, with the blessing of township commissioners, Sabol began publicizing a toy drive with the municipal building as a drop-off and distribution point.

“We have already helped over 20 families, and appointments for the smallest victims of the flood to shop – at no charge, of course – can still be made,” Sabol said.

Distribution of the toys will continue through the month of October, although the collection phase is over.

“This project kind of took on a life of its own. I’d give a play kitchen set away and I’d get two more donated. Now, we’re at capacity,” Sabol said.

There are board games, bicycles, play kitchens and play work benches, about 20 boxes full of electronic baby toys, rocking horses, dolls, cars and trucks – just about everything imaginable.

While the toy distribution is by appointment only, so that children don’t feel rushed and have free rein to explore the room of toys for their favorite new finds, a one-time open distribution is also scheduled for 8 a.m. to noon Oct. 15, Sabol said.

Sabol said she is extremely grateful to township commissioners for providing use of the building.

Sabol said she, like her firefighter husband, Paul, would have been out helping flood victims directly if she weren’t busy caring for her two children – Amy, 4, and Paul, 5 – during the day. With long-distance clerical help from Piccolotti, Sabol takes care of the leg work in the township with the help of a few other volunteers, she said.

She chose to coordinate a toy drive because she realizes how important play is to a child’s learning and development “and I know how my kids would feel if they lost all their toys,” Sabol said.

HOW TO GET TOYS

Flood victims should call 706-6075 for an appointment to bring their children to the municipal building to pick out some toys. Or, they are welcome to attend the open distribution between 8 a.m. and noon Oct. 15, around the back of the building located at 126 N. Main St., Plains Township. Find a link to the Plains Township Wyoming Valley 2011 Flood Relief Toy Distribution Facebook page at timesleader.com.

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