Gifts galore stream into TEAM Inc. Shelton toy store

SHELTON - Christmas came early Monday for TEAM, Inc.

Dozens of boxes filled with donated toys were dropped off at the organization’s Toys 4 Kids holiday store located at the Echo Hose Ambulance Training Center’s Coram Avenue facility.

Volunteers will now continue putting together gift packages for those parents who need help putting presents under the tree this Christmas.

“People continue to step up and help,” Lillian McKenzie, development and communications manager with TEAM Inc., said about the steady flow of presents arriving Monday. “We were able to reach every child last year, and we will get toys to all the kids who need them this year as well.”

TEAM, Inc.’s Toys 4 Kids Drive, which houses its holiday store at the Echo Hose Ambulance Training Center, began in late October, much earlier than in years past.

TEAM Inc. President David Morgan pinpointed the global supply chain crisis across so many industries caused by COVID-19, and the impacts to the economy, labor market, production and transit, including ports, as reasons to start early in 2021.

Last year’s drive distributed holiday gifts to more than 1,650 families in the Valley, a 34 percent increase from the previous year. McKenzie said that TEAM Inc. will be aiding the same number this year.

The pandemic prevented TEAM from putting out donation boxes last year, but McKenzie said this year more than 30 donation boxes were at businesses and other sites throughout the Valley.

The first drop off Monday came from Echo Hose Ambulance Corps EMT Naomi Gauruder about noon, and the arrivals became steadier through the early afternoon.

Inside the facility, bags filled with toys, each marked for a specific family, sat ready for hand delivery outside the building. Like last year, McKenzie said there are three distribution days — parents make appointments and then drive up at their time to pick up the bag of Christmas goodies.

“We're here to support their operation, to be their biggest cheerleaders,” said Echo Hose Ambulance Corps Assistant Chief Joe Laucella, who spent the morning setting up decorations - including adorning an Echo Hose ambulance with holiday cheer - in anticipation of the gift donations.

“We do what we need to do to support this effort every year,” Laucella added.

Gifts and monetary donations can be made through Dec. 13, and any overflow will be held for next year.

The average value of donations amounts to $50 per child, McKenzie said. TEAM packages toys for children ages 7 and younger. For those ages 8 to 12, McKenzie said parents are given $50 Walmart gift cards, with which they either purchase the toys or go with the child to let them pick out what they wish.

“This is my first year, but I can’t wait to meet all the parents and bring them some holiday cheer,” McKenzie said. “With added bills, inflation, it can definitely be more stressful for parents thinking about how they will get those toys their kids want under the tree. This just takes one thing off their plate.”

brian.gioiele@hearstmediact.com