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Employees Spread "Yule Toy" Cheer

Heather Redfern
SEPTA Press Officer

'Twas just days before Christmas and SEPTA Headquarters was packed - with thousands of toys to be put into sacks.

For the 31st year, employees from across the Authority spread holiday cheer by participating in SEPTA's Yule Toy drive to benefit underprivileged children across the Authority's service area. And wow, did the staff give - smashing last year's record of 4,000 donated toys.

"Our employees once again exceeded all expectations and proved just how generous they are," said Carol Looby, assistant secretary to the SEPTA Board who has coordinated Yule Toy for more than 20 years. "We collected about 8,000 gifts and made the holidays special for even more children."

For just one month - between Thanksgiving and Christmas - employees from all SEPTA districts and Headquarters dropped toys in more than 70 bright red bins and collected thousands of dollars to purchase items for children of all ages. "Often the gifts the children receive from our employees are the only presents the kids will get," said Looby. "To share our blessings with those in need is the true meaning of the holiday."

Leading the way for the "SEPTA Santas" were operators Rich Hardy and Joe Mahar who collected $1,750 just at their Victory District for toys. "At SEPTA, we stress the importance of giving back to our community through activities such as Mayor Nutter's Philly Spring Clean Up, the Philabundance food drive and Yule Toy," said General Manager Joseph Casey. "The efforts of Rich and Joe at Victory, as well as the record-breaking contributions of all our employees to the 2011 Yule Toy Drive is a terrific example of how our staff always answers the call to help those in need."

Of course, sorting and delivering thousands of toys takes a dedicated team of "elves". "Days before the holiday, our Headquarters begins to look like Santa's Workshop," said Looby. "Barrels full of toys start to roll in from across the Authority and our storage area is filled floor to ceiling with gifts that need to be prepared for distribution. We wouldn't be able to get the gifts to our recipient organizations without the assistance of the employees - many using vacation time - who pack hundreds of bags with dolls, games and even bicycles."

Because Santa's reindeer were resting in the days prior to their Christmas Eve around-the-world trip, SEPTA's employees traveled not by St. Nick's sleigh, but by an Authority bus (of course) driven by the appropriately-named Michele Noel to make their toy deliveries. This year, thanks to the abundance of gifts, toys were packed on the bus and on a SEPTA flatbed truck.

Groups receiving gifts as part of Yule Toy 2011 were Child Abuse Prevention Effort (CAPE); Community Action Agency of Delaware County; Philadelphia Councilwoman Blackwell's Holiday Party; John F. Kennedy Community Mental Health/Mental Retardation Center; Mercy Neighborhood Ministries of Philadelphia; Neighbor to Neighbor in Sharon Hill, PA; New Beginnings C.C. in Bristol, PA; and Organizing for America, East Mount Airy/West Oak Lane Team.

"It's an amazing feeling to pull up to the organizations' locations and hand off so many bags overflowing with goodies," said Looby. "The smiles and thank yous we receive make this all worthwhile."

General Manager Joseph Casey (fourth from left) joined employees as they prepared to package gifts.

SEPTA Headquarters - a.k.a. Santa's Workshop - was packed with toys for boys and girls of all ages.

Employee Maxine Dobbins was among those who helped sort, package and deliver toys.

From left: Rich Hardy and Joe Mahar collected more than $1,700 from their Victory District colleagues to purchase gifts.

Yule Toy coordinator Carol Looby and her daughter Ciara helped distribute toys to eight organizations in SEPTA's service region.