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SEPTA Employees Make the Season Bright for Local Children

Heather Redfern
SEPTA Press Officer

The bright red barrels were bursting at the seams, overflowing with 10,000 games, dolls, basketballs, bikes and more, all donated by SEPTA employees for deserving children across the Greater Philadelphia region during the Authority's 32nd annual Yule Toy Drive.

"This year's toy drive was by far the most successful ever," said Carol Looby, Secretary to the SEPTA Board and the Yule Toy organizer for more than 25 years. "Whenever we think our employees can't possibly surpass their generosity of the year before, they go above and beyond and smash the preceding year's total." In 2011, SEPTA staff donated a then-record 8,000 toys.

In the month between Thanksgiving and Christmas, employees at all SEPTA districts, shops and headquarters make their contributions to the collection barrels, knowing that their presents could possibly be the only ones some children receive during the holiday season. "The Yule Toy recipient organizations serve families that are facing financial and sometimes medical hardships," said Looby. "Holiday gifts might be a luxury that the kids' parents or guardians cannot afford."

Groups receiving gifts as part of Yule Toy 2012 were Bethel of Praise International Outreach Ministries; Child Abuse Prevention Effort (CAPE): Community Action Agency of Delaware County; Philadelphia Councilwoman Blackwell's Holiday Party; Intercultural Family Services; John F. Kennedy Community Mental Health/Mental Retardation Center; Mercy Neighborhood Ministries of Philadelphia; Neighbor to Neighbor in Sharon Hill, PA; New Beginnings C.C. in Bristol, PA; and Ronald McDonald House of Philadelphia.

"Our employees really do care about the community we serve. This compassion is especially evident during the Yule Toy Drive," said GM Joseph Casey. "The thought of any child going without a new toy or a gift on Christmas is not acceptable to our employees and they give as much as they can to ensure that doesn't happen."

Leading the way for SEPTA staff members were Victory District bus operators Rich Hardy and Joe Mahan. For the second consecutive year, thanks to the determination and efforts of Hardy and Mahan, Victory employees contributed the most to Yule Toy -- $1,900 in 2012. "In previous years, our barrel was always empty and looked like a trash can," said Hardy, a 15-year SEPTA operator. Four years ago, he decided to make a difference by personally asking his colleagues for their support. The following year Hardy recruited Mahan, a 13-year employee, to assist in his collection efforts. Victory is now consistently one of the top Yule Toy participants - in 2011, Hardy and Mahan collected $1,750. "It's a total Victory effort," Mahan said.

Ten thousand toys is a heavy order to add to Santa's already big Christmas Eve load, so Hardy and Mahan joined Looby, her daughter, Ciara, and about 10 other employees on a SEPTA-style sleigh - a bus driven by operator Michele Noel (of course) - to deliver the toys a few days before the holiday. With bags of gifts packed to the bus' roof and bicycles secured to the front, the merry group made the rounds, dropping off their special deliveries to the recipient organizations.

"It's an awesome feeling when we give out the toys to the organizations. They are so appreciative," said Looby. "Thank you to all of our SEPTA staff who helped make this a great holiday for so many children."

SEPTA employees filled these red collection barrels with 10,000 toys for local children.

General Manager Joe Casey (back row, far left) visited Santa's SEPTA elves as they sorted and packed the donations.

Victory operators Rich Hardy (left) and Joe Mahan collected $1,900 from their colleagues to purchase Yule Toy gifts

The SEPTA Elves, led by organizer Carol Looby and her daughter, Ciara (far right), helped Santa by delivering toys a few days before Christmas.

With operator Michele Noel at the wheel, the group made special deliveries across the Greater Philadelphia region.