SCRANTON — The sounds of Toyland Workshop are soft bustling; its scents are disinfecting wipes and Lysol.
A dozen or so volunteers at Outreach, a nonprofit social services agency, scrubbed and sorted thousands of donated used toys for the organization’s annual giveaway for its clients past and present Saturday and Sunday.

“This is for the families that are involved in our programs,” said Program Manager Carlene Nicholas. “We have teen moms, we have grandparents raising children, we have single parents.”

Program Director Angela Seibert said they don’t collect enough toys to open it up to the public, but Outreach, formerly Employment Opportunity Training Center, lets past clients pick toys as a way to stay connected to the organization.
Volunteers from VaxServe, Outreach staff and others replaced batteries and checked to make sure nothing was broken or missing pieces.

Nicholas used special donations to buy at least $200 worth of batteries to make sure everything’s in working order and ready to be played with, she said.

Families arrange pickup times with staff or by calling Outreach.

The organization serves more than 5,000 families each year with education programs for children, job-search help and re-entry coaching for people leaving the criminal justice system, among other services.
Between 300 and 400 needy families are expected through the doors this week to peruse tables overflowing with toys and games.

For some caregivers, Toyland might provide the only gifts they give this year.

Outreach donates anything left over, already cleaned and sorted, to other social service organizations.
Nicholas started Toyland about 20 years ago when she realized her own children, now grown, got more enjoyment from the gifts they gave each other than the ones she bought for them. Toyland began as a way for kids to share gifts among themselves and learn about the spirit of giving.

Over the years, they realized caregivers sometimes need help, too, but the kid-to-kid exchange remains an important piece.

“It is so exciting to see them come, and they really put a lot of thought into it,” Nicholas said. “They really look for things their siblings are going to like.”

[Note: This article appeared in the Scranton Times-Tribune on Monday, Dec. 11, 2018.]