Drexel President John A. Fry shakes hands with Santa Claus at annual toy drive distribution ceremony.
Piled roughly five feet tall, red and white bags marked with the Drexel logo spanned the space between the two staircases in the Main Building’s Great Court Monday.
Filled with Hot Wheels, crayons, stuffed animals and bunches of other toys, the mound of bags was the culmination of the University’s 18th Annual Holiday Toy Drive benefitting Philadelphia children and families in need.
“We get to kick-start our children’s holidays with this,” said Pamela McLaurin, a teacher at Greater Hope Christian Academy in Southwest Philadelphia, one of the organizations benefitting from the toy drive. “Some of them would not be getting a toy without it.”
The distribution ceremony, held late Monday morning, joined representatives from the organizations that benefit from the toy drive with the University’s faculty and staff, who helped donate and prepare the toys.
University President John A. Fry said that more than 70 organizations received help from the toy drive this year.
“Our relationship with all of you is very important to our mission, which includes being the most civically-engaged University in the nation, ” Fry told the organizations’ representatives at the ceremony Monday.
In addition to the toy drive, initiatives like the Dornsife Center for Neighborhood Partnerships and a culinary class pairing Drexel students with their city neighbors forward the University’s goal of revitalization in the community.
“We’re proud and grateful to be doing this kind of work in our community,” Fry said.
Saying he wanted to "give credit where credit's due," Fry recognized the Drexel Office of Government and Community Relations, led by Senior Vice President Brian Keech, who also spoke Monday, for spearheading the toy drive.
Dimitrios Boufidis, the director for business and city affairs in the Office of Government and Community Relations, led the toy-bagging efforts last week.
More than 500 bags were filled with toys. Boufidis said the University itself contributes monetarily to the drive, “but most of the toys come from students, faculty and staff and the Greater Philadelphia area.”
Dimitrios Boufidis, who helped spearhead the toy drive, poses with Santa.
“It’s a good number but as the requests are increasing in number each year, I hope the donations will also pick up,” Boufidis said. “We will need to be more creative next year in increasing our numbers.”
Tables full of toys were spread across the Great Court as volunteers filled and piled up the bags at the “wrapping parties.”
“We used to wrap them years ago but since Drexel decided to go eco-friendly, we went with the eco-friendly bags,” Boufidis explained during the Wednesday bagging session.
Rebecca Charuk, associate director of alumni relations, was one of the volunteers loading dolls and trucks into the bags.
“My colleague asked me if I wanted to come out and help with the Holiday Toy Drive and I said, ‘definitely,’” Charuk said last week. “I want to spread the holiday cheer and have fun playing and packing.”
It was Charuk’s first year helping out.
“I’m super glad I did it,” she said.
At the beginning of Monday’s ceremony, Keech told the crowd he “heard Santa’s close by.”
It turned out Keech had good sources, as Santa Claus came strolling down from the second floor of the Main Building at the close of Fry’s speech. Clad in his traditional red suit, Santa handed the bags of collected toys to the organizations’ leaders before eventually taking pictures with them in front of a special velvet throne.
Jackelyn Church, another teacher at Greater Hope Christian Academy, said children at her school have benefitted from the toy drive for almost a decade now.
After 18 years of toy drives, the Drexel community has become a rock for community leaders like Church when it comes to the holidays.
“It’s just a blessing because we have a place that we can rely on,” Church said.