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Operation Toy Lift in Belmont County slated for Dec. 11

T-L Photo/ROBERT A. DEFRANK Belmont County Sheriff David Lucas, left, and Chief Deputy James Zusack pose with some of the donations received for Operation Toy Lift, set for Dec. 11 at the Ohio Valley Mall. People have until 4 p.m. that day to donate.

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — The Belmont County Sheriff’s Office and the Wheeling Police Department are helping to bring a merry Christmas to Ohio Valley children with the fifth annual Operation Toy Lift, to be held Dec. 11 at the Ohio Valley Mall.

Operation Toy Lift’s mission is “Raising Hope for Kids in the Ohio Valley” by collecting new and unwrapped toys for children. Those wishing to join in on the event can simply purchase a new toy for children ages infant to teenager and drop it off to the volunteers on site. The first 500 participants will receive a voucher for a free sandwich at Chick-fil-A.

This year’s event will kick off with a small parade around the mall, with Santa arriving at the toy lift site in the parking lot promptly at 10 a.m. Anyone interested can attend. After the parade, donation drop-offs will be accepted until 4 p.m. in the parking lot across from Ferguson’s House of Furniture. Various community members from the Ohio Valley will be helping throughout the day by grabbing the public’s attention from the roadway in the ‘toy lift.’

Since the event launched in 2017, thousands of local children have enjoyed a brighter Christmas season thanks to the two law enforcement agencies and various community groups joining forces and creating the event.

“Every year Operation Toy Lift gets bigger, better and more exciting,” Wheeling Police Chief Shawn Schwertfeger said. “Considering how many children’s lives have been touched by simply joining forces is heartwarming. I am so proud of everyone involved and look forward to another successful event.”

Belmont County Sheriff Dave Lucas’s office has been instrumental in the site preparation and set up. The sheriff’s office substation at the Ohio Valley Mall also serves as the planning, storage and distribution site for Operation Toy Lift.

“This is one of the premier events for our office during the holiday season,” Lucas said. “The people of the Ohio Valley have been so generous in ensuring that all children can enjoy a meaningful Christmas. Operation Toy Lift attracts a lot of support and is a chance for law enforcement from both sides of the river to create a successful event.

“My substation is completely filled with donations,” Lucas said. “This is a team event, and a lot of people come together and help us.”

When the event concludes, the toys will be distributed to those in need through the United Way of the Upper Ohio Valley. Anyone wishing to make a monetary donation can write a check to the United Way for the Upper Ohio Valley and write in the memo line ‘Toy Lift.’

“It’s our community, “ Lucas said. “The residents of West Virginia and Belmont County … over the years, from our first to now, it’s really grown. Our community has been really supportive, and we’ve helped hundreds and thousands of kids.”

Lucas said there is no age range for children receiving gifts.

In addition to Wheeling Police Department and Belmont County Sheriff’s Office, partners for this year’s event include the city of Wheeling, Wheeling Fire Department, Cumberland Trail Fire Department, Belmont County Student Services, Chick-fil-A, United Way of the Upper Ohio Valley, Ohio Valley Mall, Belmont Savings Bank, Bill’s Towing, Information Helpline, Crimestoppers Upper Ohio Valley, Tricor, American Electric Power, ICR Equipment Rental, iHeartRadio and WTRF-TV.

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