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Anonymous elves: Free toys under community tree brings town together

By Austin Jackson | Published Wednesday, December 19, 2018
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FREE TOYS — Newark residents Sherri Whatley-Taylor, Linda Ortberg and Leann Nipp along with Brylyn, Colden and Cyson Nipp stand by the community Christmas tree in Newark. Community members have donated pre-loved toys. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

The toys under the Christmas tree in Newark just keep disappearing.

Don’t fret. This isn’t the work of the Grinch.

Following the Newark Christmas tree lighting, residents placed used toys under the community tree and throughout the gazebo at Delora Doughty Royal Park.

Since, families have come to the tree to pick out Christmas gifts, ranging from toys to jackets to kitchen sets.

“It’s not the cost of it. It’s the idea behind it,” said Sherri Whatley-Taylor. “We want everyone to have a good Christmas.”

What was once an ‘old toy’ is being re-purposed to be opened as a new gift under the tree on Christmas morning.

“We’ve all struggled,” she added. “I had times during Christmas where used toys is all you got. But it’s a toy to open on Christmas. Often, kids don’t know the difference.”

Taylor and fellow members of the Coffee Cup Committee in Newark helped bring the idea to life with help from the Newark Public Library.

They’ve decorated the tree and gazebo, placing a ‘Free Toys’ sign by the tree.

Word about the community Christmas tree spread throughout Newark. As often as people come to pick up toys, more donate new ones.

Over the weekend, a display filled with children’s books was picked up. It was a heartening moment for Newark librarian Linda Ortberg who helped start the initiative.

Ortberg reached out to the Newark Women’s Auxiliary to help procure the Christmas tree for Newark’s “first” Christmas tree lighting. Around 200 people from across the town descended upon the small park and Newark Fire Hall to kick off the season of giving.

At the Santa at the Station and Tree Lighting, the library provided bags and books that were handed out by Santa to children at the event. It didn’t stop there, as she helped spread the word of the community Christmas tree.

SPRUCING UP THE TREE — Brylyn, Colden and Cyson Nipp decorate the Newark community Christmas tree where residents have placed used toys and other items for members of the community to pick up for Christmas. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

“Libraries across the nation have been reaching out to benefit the local community beyond reading,” Ortberg said. “I thought this would be a good way to help.”

There’s more in the works at the park beyond the community tree. The Coffee Cup Committee’s mission is to foster community and bring the old and new Newark together.

“Everyone in the community is really on board with lets be friends, let’s use the beautiful resources that we have in town and do stuff together,” Whatley-Taylor said.

She hopes to renovate a vacant house near the park into a historical site that can be used as a library and center for mental health wellness and information on drug addiction.

It’s a long term goal, one to help the community.

For now, she just hopes people keep donating and families keep coming to ensure every kid in Newark has toys to open under the tree this Christmas.

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