That’s a Wrap: Students Help Stuff Santa’s Toy Box with Gifts for Kids

Lee Owen
Mercersburg students—including the entire ninth-grade class—as well as faculty, staff, and family members, joined members of the greater Borough of Mercersburg community Wednesday evening, December 6, to wrap more than 2,000 presents for local children in just over an hour. The toy drive, which is known as Santa’s Toy Box and organized by the Mercersburg Rotary Club, has been an annual event since the 1970s and provides gifts for area children who might not otherwise receive anything for Christmas.
Watch a report on the event from WDVM-TV (Channel 25 in Hagerstown, Md.)

Approximately 275 children from 125 area families will receive gifts this year through the generosity of Rotary Club members, private donors, local businesses, and a free-will offering collected at the Academy’s Christmas Candlelight Service. The wrapping takes place in the fellowship hall/gymnasium of First United Methodist Church in Mercersburg, which is just down the street from the Academy campus. The gifts are delivered to underprivileged children who live within the boundaries of the Tuscarora School District, which includes the borough of Mercersburg.

Academy ninth graders were joined by their senior Peer Group leaders as well as numerous other volunteers from the student body; last year, more than 200 students took part.

David Bell, a longtime Academy teacher who is also a Mercersburg Rotary Club member, helps organize the logistics of the evening. Fellow faculty member Paul Galey, staff member Linda Hargrove, and emeriti faculty Karl Reisner and Ray Larson are also Rotary members.

“The level of involvement from both Academy students and the local Mercersburg community has increased every year,” Bell says. “People who come once tend to return over and over to participate. It is gratifying to see how many people are willing—and even eager—to give of their time to help the children.”

Bell previously served as the school’s director of community service; he and his wife, Julie, also help organize the Academy’s Angel Tree program, which invites members of the Academy community to purchase a gift for an underprivileged child for Christmas. The tree, located near the library circulation desk in Lenfest Hall, is decorated with tags representing area children and a toy each child would like to receive. Students and other community members often choose a tag prior to Thanksgiving break and shop for the child over the break, returning with a gift (or gifts, since participants are also invited to purchase an item of clothing for each child as well). On December 5, the Bells delivered approximately 125 Angel Tree gifts (for more than 70 children) to the Chambersburg office of the Salvation Army.

For more information or to contribute to the holiday efforts, contact David Bell or Katherine Dyson (the school’s director of community engagement). A free-will offering collected at Mercersburg’s Christmas Candlelight Services Sunday, December 10, supported Santa’s Toy Box.
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Founded in 1893 in the heart of Pennsylvania and the Mid-Atlantic, Mercersburg is a private, coed, college preparatory boarding school with approximately 435 students (15 percent are day), grades 9-12 and postgraduate.
We offer 170 courses, including AP and Honors, more than $7 million in financial aid, 26 varsity sports, and a state-of-the-art performing and visual arts center.
Located 90 minutes from Washington, D.C., and Baltimore, and within easy driving distance of New York City, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh.
300 East Seminary Street, Mercersburg, PA 17236
GPS Address: 10951 Buchanan Trail West, Mercersburg, PA 17236
717-328-6173