Christmas In July

LAKEWOOD – Families in need this year are already in the consideration of helping hands.

Liberty Mutual Insurance, located at 133 E. Fairmount Ave. in Lakewood, finished its inaugural “Christmas in July” toy drive to benefit the Jamestown Salvation Army on Friday. Over the course of 10 days, nearly 50 new, unwrapped toys for children ages 0-12 were donated, alongside more than $200 in monetary donations.

To finish out the event, Capt. Kim Merchant and Lori Franzen, of the Jamestown Salvation Army, collected the toys which will be stored in a donated rental unit at Riverwalk Self-Storage until Christmas, when the toys will be given to area children.

“So many families are served (by the donations) at Christmastime,” Merchant said. “This is a brilliant idea.”

According to Kara Peterson and Stephanie Cronk, of Liberty Mutual Insurance, the idea of having the toy drive in July came about while considering that many local families would like to donate toys to children in need during the Christmas season, but are unable to because of their own financial stresses during that season.

“The toys stay local,” Peterson said. “That means a lot to the people who donate toys or money.”

According to Cronk, Liberty Mutual Insurance has pledged to donate $10 to the Salvation Army for every individual who visits the location to receive an insurance quote.

Sandy Ahlgren was also heavily involved with the project, and said that there are plans to expand the toy drive for next year, including involving local churches and the Scandinavian Festival Committee.

Ahlgren also said that Salvation Army locations in other cities have heard of the “Christmas in July” toy drive and may implement a similar idea in future years.

Liberty Mutual Insurance will continue to accept monetary donations to benefit the Salvation Army.