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West Mifflin Area organizations help fuel toy drive

Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News - West Mifflin Area High School TLC members Brooke Bonacci, left, and Madison Crow organize toys that students delivered to Dr. Albert Graham's office.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News</em></div>West Mifflin Area High School TLC members Brooke Bonacci, left, and Madison Crow organize toys that students delivered to Dr. Albert Graham's office.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News - West Mifflin Area JROTC members from left, Katie Wichelmann, Caroline Hrabic and DaVaughn Palma and TLC members James Donahoe and Jason Quinn place toys around Christmas trees outside Dr. Albert Graham's office.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News</em></div>West Mifflin Area JROTC members from left, Katie Wichelmann, Caroline Hrabic and DaVaughn Palma and TLC members James Donahoe and Jason Quinn place toys around Christmas trees outside Dr. Albert Graham's office.

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Friday, Dec. 20, 2013, 5:21 a.m.
 

The lobby of the West Mifflin municipal building looked like a Christmas wonderland.

Gifts were laid out on Wednesday under a row of holiday-decorated trees, to be given to youngsters in a variety of venues.

“Holy cow, holy smoke!” Dr. Albert Graham said as West Mifflin Area High School students hauled in five boxes labeled “Toys for Tots.”

The Allegheny Chiropractic proprietor has had a toy drive each year for the past decade, collecting new, unwrapped toys and clothing for needy children of all ages.

“We thank you for your generosity,” Graham said to all those who joined in on the drive.

It began on Nov. 18 and was conducted in association with the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank and West Mifflin Area School District.

In all, 450 toys were donated by West Mifflin Area High School students, many of which will go to the Rainbow Kitchen in Homestead for 300 families with youngsters in that borough, Munhall, West Homestead and West Mifflin.

“The doctor had called me and asked me about where he could donate them,” said the Homestead pantry's Lori Roadway.

The effort has been helped regularly for the past seven years by the Air Force Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps at the high school.

“They came through again,” Graham said. “This is better than last year.”

“The kids are very generous,” said ROTC sponsor Sgt. Otis DeCerbo, who oversaw the effort by 158 cadets.

“Everybody had the opportunity to donate,” DeCerbo said.

Involved for the first time were members of Titan Leaders in the Community, a new club with 110 junior and senior class members.

“This is along with our troops overseas supply drive,” club sponsor John Inglis said.

That drive additionally had help from Will Clibbens, a junior at Thomas Jefferson High School and son of West Mifflin Area Middle School teacher Lee Piccioni.

“TJ doesn't have a ROTC program,” Will said. “So maybe it will inspire them to have a ROTC program in the future.”

ROTC members went to Century III Mall to drop off supplies for the troops at the Operation Troop Support headquarters near JC Penney.

“I collected from various locations supplies for the troops, such as canned foods, toothpaste, shampoo and medical items,” Will said.

Inglis said another group involved in the high school toy drive is the Child Development Program sponsored by Kristen Bonacci.

In all, the various groups cover a large chunk of a student body of 1,100 at West Mifflin Area High School.

The group also known as TLC is doing other community service.

“We recently did a powderpuff football game that raised over $2,200,” Inglis said.

Some proceeds will go toward scholarships started in memory of the late school nurse Amy Zlokas and West Mifflin Area school director John Donis.

“The kids also chose to donate to St. Jude (Children's Hospital in Memphis, Tenn.) and Make-A-Wish,” Inglis said.

The TLC sponsor said his club is seeking ways to help a couple and their adult daughter who were left homeless when their three-story home was gutted in a smoky fire along a street in West Mifflin's Homeville neighborhood.

Patrick Cloonan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1967, or pcloonan@tribweb.com.

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