WOONSOCKET – The mountainous cache of toys and games did not originate at the North Pole, it was not created by elves, and it did not arrive by sleigh.
It was manufactured by Pawtucket-based Hasbro, Inc., and hefted up a flight of stairs by the toy giant’s employees, one shipping crate at a time, onto the creaky floor of an old spinning mill on Mendon Road.
But when underprivileged kids find the goodies under Christmas trees from Woonsocket to Westerly on the big day, no one has to know they didn’t come from Santa.
“It feels good to be able to empower parents to feel like they’re able to provide a toy or game for their children on the holiday,” says Maggie Casey, Hasbro’s community relations manager. “As a toy company we want to help these families in need so they can have an item for their children.”
About two dozen Hasbro workers gathered at the Bonin Spinning complex Tuesday to sort the toys into piles marked for their next destination. The toys – about 25,000 of them – were still crated in their original cardboard shipping containers and are worth about $550,000 at retail, Casey said.
All are donated to the needy by Hasbro, whose good civic manners are among the most highly regarded in the corporate world. Earlier this month, a watchdog group called the Civic 50 named Hasbro one of the nation’s 10 most “community-minded” outfits, up there with the Hershey Company, Campbell’s Soup, McGraw-Hill, and others.
During the next couple of weeks, the toys will be distributed to needy families through the Rhode Island Community Action Association, which includes Blackstone Valley Community Action in Pawtucket, Eastbay Community Action in East Providence and Family Resources Community Action Program in Woonsocket.
As they maneuvered pallet jacks and hand trucks about the cavernous and chilly warehouse yesterday, the Hasbro workers wore powder-blue T-shirts emblazoned with the slogan “Team Hasbro” and an image of Mr. Potato Head, the company’s most famous toy.
The heavy lifting counted toward workers’ budget of paid volunteer time at the community organization of their choice – up to four hours a month, on Hasbro’s dime.
“It’s hard work but you’ll find people around here doing it with a smile on their face,” said Monica Govey, 29, an engineer who works in the company’s greenhouse gas compliance division. “It’s rewarding work that gives us an opportunity to do something for children that don’t have much.”
Pete Dacanay, also of Pawtucket, said he also volunteers to help children in need as a member of the Shriners and Masons. The senior product safety technician stepped up for the toy drop on short notice when he found out his boss would let him go even though his department only has two workers.
Dacanay says he knows one person can never help all the children in need, but it makes him feel better to do what he can, especially during the holidays.
“I feel bad, that’s why I volunteer,” he said. “It makes me feel good, deep inside.”
The holiday bounty includes an assortment of Hasbro’s most popular toys and games, from My Little Pony and Battleship to Transformers action figures and the Littlest Pet Shop.
The 2012 toy donation marks 30 years since Hasbro first began distributing toys to the needy during the holidays, according to Casey.
For the last three, the company has been using a portion of the second story of the Bonin Spinning complex to store the stockpile of holiday presents before they’re distributed. RICAA normally leases the area for routine storage from the owner of the property, Leo Beaudoin of Red Star Realty.