After months of collections and fundraisers, Kevin's Kids will stop accepting donations on Friday so volunteers can purchase, wrap and distribute gifts for those in need.
"It really picked up the last couple of days because of the great people of Manchester," said Kevin Burger, the director of Student and Administrative Services, who founded the holiday toy drive nearly 30 years ago. "It started slow, but I think that we're right about where we were last year."
Burger and other volunteers have been collecting gifts for about 400 local families in need since last year and have held several fundraisers in conjunction with local businesses and organizations in preparation of this year's drive. Just last week, the lip sync show at the high school was held to benefit Kevin's Kids.
This year, the most popular items parents asked the drive to purchase for their children were bicycles and winter coats.
"We've just about completed every shopping list," Burger said.
With donation completed on Friday, volunteer shoppers will gather Saturday at 7 a.m. at Brick Target and 7:30 a.m. at Toms River Toys R Us to buy the items on the lists. Shopping lasts about four hours, Burger said.
"I'll get a couple hundred volunteers," Burger said, who are instructed to "try to grab as many of the wishes as you can."
Burger anticipates that three buses — operated by drivers who have volunteered their time — will be needed at each store to transport the purchases back to Manchester Township Middle School — "which has turned into Santa's workshop," Burger said. An expected 250 volunteers will then wrap gifts for over four hours on Sunday and ready them for pickup later that night. To preserve confidentiality, Burger and just a few others will remain to distribute items to parents.
Though Burger and Kevin's Kids volunteers will be in for a long weekend, helping families is always worth it.
"We leave here feeling really good," he said.
Burger said that he owes "a huge thank you" to Manchester's residents — everyone from students and school district staff, seniors, the police department and community at large.
"It's a town that truly cares about its neighbors," he said.
Those wishing to make a donation before the Friday deadline can call 732-350-5900 or make a check payable to:
c/o Manchester Twp. Middle School
2759 Ridgeway Rd.
Manchester, NJ 08759
Donations of clothing and toys can be brought to the office of any Manchester public school.