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Young student aids community toy drive

WATSONTOWN — Sporting a shirt emblazoned with the words “extra thankful this year,” 6-year-old Lilly Wallace on Monday sorted through a stack of toys which she’s collected to give to those in need this holiday season.

Wallace said she’s extra thankful because she has the opportunity to help those in need. She’s in the process of planning a toy drive to benefit the Watsontown Police Department’s Chief Carl Reed Memorial Christmas Fund program.

New, unwrapped toys will be collected during the Watsontown Area Business Association’s (WABA) Caravan of Lights, which will take place from 5:30 to 6 p.m. Friday, Dec. 3.

The caravan will travel from the former Watsontown Elementary School building to Elm Street. It will move along Elm Street to the area of the Nurse Helen Fairchild Memorial Bridge, where the borough’s tree lighting ceremony will be held at 6.

After the lighting, the caravan will continue throughout Watsontown as it returns to the school.

Wallace is a first-grade student at Milton’s Baugher Elementary School, and is the daughter of Josh and Lynnette Wallace. She has a 4-year-old sister, Alice, who is also helping with the drive.

Josh, the co-pastor of the Watsontown Baptist Church, said Lilly became interested in the Reed program as they were delivering frozen turkeys to the police department last year.

While making the delivery, Lilly noticed families picking up toys.

“When she saw the families, she recognized a toy (like one) she had at her Nana’s house,” Josh said.

Lilly asked her father what was going on that day. He explained the families were receiving food and toys as they were going through difficult times and needed some help for the holidays.

“I thought that I might be able to help kids in Watsontown have a better Christmas,” Lilly said.

Inspired by the Reed program, Lilly decided to collect toys to support it this year.

“If you don’t (collect donations), they might not be able to find help,” she said.

Josh said a pickup truck will follow at the rear of the caravan of vehicles decked out with holiday lights. Volunteers will be walking alongside the truck, collecting toys from anyone along the street who wishes to donate.

Lilly hopes to fill every inch of the truck with donations.

“I want to make sure there’s no room so you can’t find the floor,” she said.

In addition to collecting the toys, Josh said the organization Lifting Little Lives will be donating $2,500 toward the effort.

“We will shop locally (for toys, with the donation) and keep it in the local community,” Josh said.

Lilly is excited to see how many donations are collected.

“I get to help children in need,” she said. “It makes the kids that receive it feel good and it makes you feel good too.”

Anyone who wishes to donate to the toy drive, but can’t make it to the caravan on Friday, can contact the Watsontown Baptist Church at 570-538-2512 to coordinate dropping off donations there.

Checks to support Lilly’s toy drive can be made out to Josh or Lynnette Wallace, and also dropped off at the church.

The Chief Carl Reed Memorial Christmas Fund program was founded by Reed during the 1949 season as he was serving as chief of the Watsontown Police Department. He passed away in 1972, and the program has continued to grow through the years.

Current police Chief Rod Witherite praised Lilly for her efforts.

“It is a very special thing when children are involved like her, and we do appreciate it,” he said. “Community support is overwhelming and obviously crucial to this program, and has been for years.”

Witherite said the program could serve up to 100 families. Names are still being gathered of individuals who will be helped by the program this year.

He said anyone who knows of a family who needs help with Christmas this year, or is in need of items like clothing, food or help paying heating bills, should contact the borough office at 570-538-1000.

“That’s year round,” Witherite noted. “If someone is in dire need, please contact us.”

He said volunteers with the program are busy preparing for this year’s efforts.

“We will all be doing a lot of shopping,” he noted.

In addition to Lilly’s toy drive, donations for a snack pack program which serves students in the Warrior Run School District will be collected during the caravan.

Santa Claus will be busy in Watsontown throughout December. In addition to appearing during Friday’s festivities, he will ride through the borough in a stagecoach between 1 and 3 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 4.

He will also be chauffeured throughout the borough Friday evenings, Dec. 10 and 17.

Santa will appear during a showing of “The Christmas Chronicles,” taking place at 1 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 11, at Kingdom Kidz, 11 E. Third St., Watsontown.

A drive-thru event with Santa is scheduled for 10 a.m. to noon Saturday, Dec. 18, at the Warrior Run Area Fire Department on Main Street.

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