Amanda Hebblethwaite was literally woken from a sound sleep one night by a drive to help others.
“I woke up in the middle of the night one night and thought about how awful it would be not to be able to have your parents be able to give you gifts for Christmas,” Hebblethwaite said. “The next morning I talked to my mom about it, and she suggested I start a donation drive for some place like the Rescue Mission.”
Hebblethwaite ended doing just that. The Liverpool High School junior is conducting a toy drive for the Rescue Mission, collecting new and gently used toys for children in need.
It did take a little while after her midnight epiphany to launch the project.
“It was a year before I started doing it. I beat myself up for a year, because it was too late to start it,” she said. “So I did it the next year. This is my second year doing it.”
Not that Hebblethwaite sat idle in the meantime.
Edge Federal Credit Union, 7575 Morgan Road, Liverpool
Jo’s Lil’ Cupcake Co., 141 First St., Liverpool
New and gently used toys must be dropped off by Wednesday, Dec. 4. All toys will go to the Rescue Mission. For more information or if you can’t make it to a dropoff location before Dec. 4, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
“I always did Operation Christmas Child. I did that for a number of years with my church,” she said. “But I felt like that wasn’t personal enough. I’m still doing that, but on a local level, this is different. I enjoy doing it.”
Hebblethwaite said she chose the Rescue Mission as the recipient for her generosity because they accept used goods as well as new.
“We looked at a couple of other places, but a lot of places wanted new toys, and not everyone can buy new toys to donate,” she said. “The Rescue Mission will accept gently used toys, and that’s just as fun as something new.”
That was important to Hebblethwaite, because there are many people who want to give but don’t have the means to purchase new toys for programs like Toys for Tots.
“There are a lot of really giving people in this community, but for a lot of them, it’s hard to donate something new,” she said. “If they can do good by giving something their kids don’t use anymore, it’s a great way to help. And there are a lot of people who need it.”
For this year’s toy drive, Edge Federal Credit Union and Jo’s Lil’ Cupcake Co. serve as dropoff locations.
“We wanted local locations that people can get to easily,” Hebblethwaite said.
Edge FCU served as a dropoff location last year, and Jo’s Lil’ Cupcake was happy to sign on this year, according to Mike Martin, who owns the First Street shop with his wife, Shirley.
“It was a really easy decision for us. We really like this area a lot, and we love the whole idea of giving to kids that don’t have much,” Martin said. “The holidays are a giving time. For kids that don’t have anything under the tree, we’re glad we’re able to help.”
All toys must be dropped off by Dec. 4. Hebblethwaite and her family will then collect them and take them to the Rescue Mission, where families will “shop” through the selection for their children. Hebblethwaite is hopeful she’ll be able to outdo her haul from last year.
“Last year, we had, I’d say, eight to 11 shopping carts full of toys,” she said. “We filled up the back of my mom’s minivan — the trunk and we took out the back seats and filled it all up. We’re hoping to beat that this year.”
Hebblethwaite wants to see as many toys as possible so that as many kids as possible see their Christmas wishes come true.
““I hope they get the kind of toys their kids want, and their kids open it on Christmas morning and say, ‘This is exactly what I wanted,’” she said. “We’re so fortunate, and I think a lot of people take that for granted. Christmas has become so commercial. Something as simple as getting a stuffed animal can really brighten someone’s day.”
Sarah Hall is the editor of the Eagle Star-Review and the Baldwinsville Messenger. The 2012 winner of the Syracuse Press Club's Selwyn Kershaw Professional Standards Award, she has been with Eagle Newspapers since 2006. She is a Liverpool native.