Awards & Events

Businesses Muster Toys for Marine Corps Campaign

WARREN, Ohio – During his childhood, Jeremy Lehman’s family benefited from the Toys for Tots campaign the U.S. Marine Corps stages annually.

Now, as a staff sergeant in the Marine Corps, Lehman is able to make the holidays brighter for kids in similar circumstances.

“My family relied on Toys for Tots, so being able to give back to the same program that helped me have a Christmas when I was a kid is just unbelievable,” the Cincinnati native said Friday.

Lehman was among the Marine Corps members on hand at the Panera Bread Bakery-Café for a check presentation from Covelli Enterprises. The company donated $15,000 to this year’s Toys for Tots campaign.  

Covelli Enterprises, the largest Panera Bread franchisee, has supported Toys for Tots for more than 30 years, said Allen Ryan, director of corporate affairs for the company. It’s donated more than $600,000 over the years to the campaign, he reported.

“There’s nothing sadder than a child who doesn’t have toys to open on Christmas Day,” Ryan said. “Sometimes we have a tendency to take that for granted in our own lives but there’s a real need out there.”

About two dozen businesses in Mahoning and Trumbull counties conduct Toys for Tots campaigns and another 250 participate by hosting collection boxes and collect toys and monetary donations, said Sgt. Gregory Peterkin, coordinator of this year’s campaign in the two counties.

Covelli is one of Toys for Tots’ largest area donors, Peterkin noted. Receiving such a large donation allows the campaign to fill some of the gaps in specific age groups.

“That money alone allowed us to order around 4,000 toys,” he said. “This year, we’re right on track to collect about 40,000 toys and serve over 8,000 children in both counties.”

In addition to Covelli’s corporate contribution, collection boxes next to cash registers at the Panera restaurants are dedicated to the campaign.

“When we put the Toys for Tots logo on that box, there’s certainly an increase in the amount of giving that goes on,” Ryan said. “That’s a real testament to the people of this community.”

In Canfield, CTW Development Corp. and its Kennsington Golf Club & Grille will conclude its toy drive today at 6 p.m. The golf course and developer have collaborated with Toys for Tots for nearly a decade, said Alyssa Italiano, CTW marketing director.  

During the drive, anyone who donates a toy at the course’s pro shop receives a coupon for nine holes at the golf course. The campaign already has made several pickups because bins were filled, she reported.

“We are happy to report we’ve had another successful toy drive, thanks to the generous Kennsington customers,” Italiano said. “One of our golf leagues even planned an afternoon to come up for lunch and everyone in the league brought toys to help kick start our campaign.”

Hollywood Gaming at Mahoning Valley Race Course in Austintown is also offering incentives for donors on its collection days. Any patron who donates a toy receives a scratch-off card for a chance at between $5 and $5,000 of free play.

The racino offered the promotion two days in December, and will wrap up its drive next Tuesday. In two weeks, the racino collected more than 550 toys, said Samantha Maskrey, marketing manager.

“Our back offices are so filled with toys that we cannot even shut the doors,” she said. “It is truly amazing to see the community come together to support each other during the holidays and we are grateful to be part of this effort.”

Trumbull Regional Medical Center in Warren conducted a Toys for Tots collection this year for the first time, and the hospital plans to participate going forward, said Alexa Hall, marketing director.

Employees, physicians and staff filled two large Toys for Tots boxes with new toys for area children, she reported. “It’s a small way we can come together to help make Christmas special for families in need.

Pictured: Staff Sgt. Jeremy Lehman, Sgt. Gregory Peterkin, Allen Ryan of Covelli Enterprises, Sgt. Wyman Wedding and Staff Sgt. Mitchell Thompson.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.