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More than 1,000 children helped by charity group's work

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Columbus Firemen’s Cheer Fund is looking for more toy donations because the number of used toys being donated has fallen off, and many of those donated were found to be dirty, unsafe or broken.

The 82-year-old organization needs used toys for both boys and girls ages 7 to 12 years.

“We don’t want to compromise the quality of the toys we give just because the supply is in such demand,” said Cheer Fund co-chairman Mike Wilson.

This past year, 1,265 children received a cheer box with three new toys, a brand new book, two gently used toys, two gently used books and two stocking stuffers.

When this year’s formal signup ended Nov. 30, there were 966 children registered to receive cheer boxes, said Bryan Bailey, the Cheer Fund’s other co-chairman.

“But they get so many calls during the last few days that they put kids on a waiting list,” Bailey said. “We expect our numbers will be right up where they were last year.”

As of Tuesday, 1,100 children have been approved to receive Cheer Fund assistance, said Alicia McCreary, director of United Way of Bartholomew County 2-1-1. She said her organization will continue to accept the names of children for the waiting list until Dec 14. The agency is trying to get help for everyone who applies, depending on the availability of supplies.

United Way 2-1-1 monitors several charitable organizations, including the Cheer Fund, and screens applicants to make sure they meet eligibility requirements.

In addition to toy requests, 220 requests for food baskets had been received by Tuesday morning, up 19 percent from last year. Each basket contains enough food for a nourishing holiday meal and is intended for the needy, elderly and disabled.

This is the first year the Cheer Fund’s permanent headquarters will be a warehouse within the Doug Otto United Way Center at 1531 13th St. The charity has moved many times throughout the years, most recently housed at the former Columbus Wastewater Treatment Plant on Water Street.

While the new facility provides donors a central location, the warehouse only has one overhead door for volunteers, who will begin picking up boxes and baskets for distribution at 7 a.m. Dec 15.

“Folks will have to enter and exit the same way that Saturday morning,” Wilson said. “It’s going to slow us down a little bit, but we’re hoping to increase the number of cars that we send into a loading cycle to compensate for that.”

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