Heights moms organize toy drive for flood victims

Summer vacation is well underway, but for many kids in Iowa, life is hardly idyllic. Severe flooding has led to evacuations and road closures. As flood waters recede and families are able to return to their homes, their focus will be on essential survival needs: shelter, food and safe water. Meanwhile, children's toys have been ruined.

Two Cleveland Heights moms decided they could help. “We said, ‘we can do this!’” said Nivi Engineer, a mother of three young boys. She and friend Sue Maher have organized a toy drive to aid flood victims. Sue has family ties in Iowa and knows firsthand of the devastation.

The women call their effort Summer Santa. Nivi’s friend Daniela Dorsey created a graphic of Santa delivering a bag full of toys while wearing rain boots. Nivi and Sue set up a website and organized local organizations to become drop off centers for donations and help with publicity.

Donations of new or like-new toys will be accepted at several Heights locations until July 15. Beachwood Place mall will consolidate donations and ship them to the American Red Cross, which will manage distribution in Iowa. The Red Cross has set up several shelters in the affected areas and will distribute the toys to children staying there.

Nivi requests that donors not send items that are wooden or made of cloth. “I would be concerned about them becoming susceptible to mold,” she said. She also suggests that items be placed in a bag or backpack labeled on the outside with the age and gender of the intended child so that they will be easy to transport when the child is able to return back home. “Backpacks are great because the kids will be able to use them for school in the fall.”

Items can be dropped off at any of the following locations in the Heights:
  • Church of the Saviour United Methodist Church, 2537 Lee Rd.
  • Heights Parent Center, 14780 Superior Rd.
  • Progressive Urban Real Estate, 2026 Lee Rd.
  • Ruffing Montessori School, 3380 Fairmount Blvd.
  • St. Paul's Episcopal Church, 2747 Fairmount Blvd.

Monetary donations can be made to the American Red Cross (www.grantwood-redcross.org/index.html?gwatitle.htm&1 or 1-800-REDCROSS) or to the Mercy Foundation Employee Flood Relief Fund (www.mercycare.org or 319-398-6206), the local hospital, which although impacted by the flood, is now back in operation and providing direct assistance to victims.

Nivi and Sue are impressed with the outpouring of creativity and concern that the Heights community has shown in a short period of time. They encourage parents to get their children involved. “Children can help collect toys, write a letter or send a picture with your donation,” said Nivi, “It’s important that our kids can connect with the kids in Iowa to let them know we're thinking of them.”

For more information visit the Summer Santa website: www.boundlessflight.com/summersanta.

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Volume 1, Issue 4, Posted 12:41 PM, 06.27.2008