Law Enforcement To Stage ‘Operation Toy Lift’ at Ohio Valley Mall Saturday

Photo by Alex Meyer From left, Belmont County Sheriff Dave Lucas, Macy’s store Manager Jennifer Prietsch, Ohio Valley Mall Marketing Director Candi Noble-Greathouse, Boscov’s Public Relations Manager Lisa Kindler and Belmont County Chief Deputy James Zusack show toys to be given to children in need for the second Operation Toy Lift at the Ohio Valley Mall.

Wheeling Police Chief Shawn Schwertfeger anticipates that the sequel to last year’s Operation Toy Lift will be bigger and better than the original.

The second Operation Toy Lift is set to collect toys for kids in need from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at the Ohio Valley Mall in St. Clairsville.

“This was a really good event last year and it was really thrown together. It was a last-minute thing,” Schwertfeger said. “So we’ve had a little more time to plan this year.”

Volunteers at the toy drive, held in the main entrance of the mall in front of Macy’s, will collect unwrapped toys and cash or check donations that will go toward purchasing such toys. The United Way of the Upper Ohio Valley then will distribute the toys to children in need across several counties in the Ohio Valley.

The operation is a partnership between the Wheeling Police Department, the Belmont County Sheriff’s Office and a host of businesses and organizations. Schwertfeger created the toy lift last year by adapting it from a similar program at the police department for which he previously worked in Virginia.

“I was amazed and actually humbled by the turnout last year,” he said. “Last year was cold and windy, but it was still a great turnout and we had a lot of fun.”

As in 2017, the toy drive will feature local officials and public figures waving to traffic from a bucket lift truck.

Partners for this year’s event include the mall, Macy’s, Boscov’s, American Electric Power, iHeartRadio, A Special Wish Foundation and ICR Equipment Rental, among others. The partners help plan and operate the event.

“The goal is to have every child have a toy under the tree,” said Jennifer Prietsch, store manager at Macy’s in the mall. “If we can do that, that’s really what Christmas is about.”

The toy lift also will feature live music throughout the day, said Candi Noble-Greathouse, the mall’s marketing director.

“We got phone call after phone call from kids that benefited, from West Virginia to Ohio,” Belmont County Sheriff Dave Lucas said about last year’s event. “It was just awesome. This is for the kids, this is why we do it.”

Schwertfeger said he sees the event as a way for local law enforcement to give back to people in need.

“It breaks my heart, it always has, to think of a child that didn’t have the benefits that I had growing up and that others had,” he said. “This is a small way that I could spend a little time organizing a group of great partners to maybe try to make that happen.”

Checks for unwrapped toys can be made out to United Way of the Upper Ohio Valley. Those interested in volunteering at the toy drive can contact Schwertfeger directly at 304-234-3732 or schwerts@wheelingwv.gov.

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