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Operation Toy Lift has a successful third year

Photos by Scott McCloskey Five-year-old Jaxson Rine volunteers to help local law enforcement officials collect toys from area residents at the Ohio Valley Mall parking lot as part of the 3rd Annual Operation Toy Lift Saturday. Rine was volunteering with other family members.

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — Many area children will have a brighter Christmas this year thanks to the efforts of the Wheeling Police Department and Belmont County Sheriff’s Office.

The two law enforcement agencies teamed up with others in the area to host the 3rd Annual Operation Toy Lift Saturday at the Ohio Valley Mall in St. Clairsville.

The theme for Operation Toy Lift this year was “Raising hope for kids in the Ohio Valley.” Under sunny skies, toys for area children and monetary donations were accepted throughout the day at a drop-off site in the mall’s front parking. The toys will be distributed to local families in need through the help of United Way of the Upper Ohio Valley.

Wheeling Police Chief Shawn Schwertfeger said he is excited to see Operation Toy Lift grow each year and help families in need during the holiday season.

“We just had a woman who drove in and wrote a check for $200, so it is amazing,” Schwertfeger said. “It’s a fun day for us, all of these folks interacting with the community. … The largest priority is if we can help a child in the valley — that’s what it is all about,” he added.

Belmont County Sheriff David Lucas said his department is always excited to team up with the Wheeling Police Department and the other area agencies to collect toys for children in need.

“This just shows that the river doesn’t separate us. We can come together for Christmas and help a lot of families and kids out to make sure they have a happy holiday,” Lucas said.

An addition to this year’s event was a friendly competition between schools in Belmont, Brooke, Ohio, Marshall and Wetzel counties. Each have been challenged to raise funds during the month of November that will be donated to the United Way and Operation Toy Lift. The schools that raise the most money – one from Ohio and one from West Virginia – will be presented a trophy to keep for one year, until the next competition in 2020. The winner of Saturday’s competition was not immediately available.

In addition to the law enforcement agencies, partner’s for this year’s event included: Cumberland Trail Fire Department, Belmont County Student Services, The United Way for the Upper Ohio Valley, The Ohio Valley Mall, Macy’s, Boscov’s, iHeartRadio, Cloud 9 Salon and Spa, Ohio Valley Oil and Gas Association, Bill’s Towing, Information Hotline, Tricor, American Electric Power, A Special Wish Foundation, ICR Equipment Rental and WTRF-TV.

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