“The goal was to collect at least 450 teddy bears, one for every student in the school,” said Brian Stinson, president of Sterling Engineering and Fabricating Inc., a company that make custom steel parts.
But Stinson said that due to local and nationwide publicity for the drive, nearly 1,000 stuffed animals had been collected by mid-morning Friday.
“I’m just amazed at the generosity of our community,” Stinson said. “As soon as the article ran in The Times-Georgian, and the Carrollton Menu listed it on its site, we had people coming out of the woodwork.”
He said the drive was also mentioned by Ann Curry on the NBC Nightly News in a list she called, “26 Random Acts of Kindness.”
“They’re still coming in,” said Sterling office manager Allison Sanders. “Child care centers in Bremen and Tallapoosa, and First Baptist Church of Carrollton, brought in huge garbage bags this morning, filled with stuffed toys.”
She said the 32 Degree yogurt shop in Carrollton collected about 130 toys, and the two Smyrna women who started the drive, Cindy Pitts and Nina Sonsini, brought their collection of 318 toys to the Carrollton office Thursday night.
Stinson said Con Way Freight has agreed to haul the toys, free of charge, to Newtown. The freight charge ordinarily would be about $700 for that size load. He said the toys were due to be shipped out about 3 p.m. Friday.
He said the idea for the stuffed toy collection was the brainchild of Pitts and Sonsini, two Smyrna friends, who are both Connecticut natives.
“I’m members with them in the Christian Motorcyclists Association, and they announced their plans for the collection at a Saturday motorcycle club Christmas party,” Stinson said.
“We were both heartbroken over the news,” Pitts said Monday. “We had personal friends in the area affected by the shooting, so we decided to collect teddy bears to send to the school children.”
Sonsini put up signs at her Then Again Consignment Shop in Smyrna and the women notified other businesses and motorcycle clubs and put an announcement on Facebook.
“I originally told Cindy I could help with the shipping,” Stinson said. “But I also put a box up front in our office for people to donate toys.”
Sanders began to spread the word about the Carrollton collection site on social media and notified Carrollton Menu, a popular local business news website. She said the phone began ringing Monday as soon as the office opened and has continued through the week. Donations have come from all over West Georgia, she said.
“Once they’re shipped to Newtown, another motorcycle club will deliver them to the school,” Pitts said. “They’ll be there for the students when they return to school, as a security blanket and a friend to stay with them.”
According to news reports, the students who survived the mass shooting at their school will return to class after the winter break at the Chalk Hill school in the neighboring town of Monroe, about 10 miles away. The school was originally a middle school but was closed in June, 2011. Volunteers and town officials have been working to make it suitable for elementary school students.
Monroe Superintendent of Schools James Agostine’s office said the school will reopen after Jan. 1, but a date hasn’t been set. Newtown school officials will decide on a date. Monroe police Lt. Brian McCauley said authorities are trying to make sure the school is safe for when Newtown officials send teachers and students there.