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The 'Most Wonderful Time of the Year' Made Even Better by SEPTA Employees

Heather Redfern
SEPTA Public Information Manager

Santa is a busy guy - working all year making toys for good boys and girls and preparing for his around the world Christmas Eve flight. But Jolly Old Saint Nick can count on his friends at SEPTA to give him a hand in getting toys to deserving children across the Delaware Valley.

For the 33rd year, employees from across the Authority donated dolls, games, action figures and even bikes to SEPTA's Yule Toy Drive. Bright red barrels placed the week after Thanksgiving at districts, depots, shops and 1234 Market Street were soon overflowing with more than 6,000 gifts, courtesy of SEPTA's employee elves. Leading the month-long toy collection as she has for more than 25 years was the Authority's own "Mrs. Claus" - Secretary to the Board Carol Looby.

"Every year I am even more touched by the compassion of my colleagues," said Looby. "So many people get involved with the toy drive, from donating a gift or money, to coming out to sort toys or deliver them to the recipient organizations. No one wants to see any child go without a gift at the holidays."

Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, the Authority's employees make their contributions to the collection barrels, knowing that their toys might 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. "There might not be extra money for presents."

Groups receiving gifts as part of Yule Toy 2013 were Community Action Agency of Delaware County; Philadelphia Councilwoman Blackwell's Holiday Party; Philadelphia Councilman Kenyatta Johnson's holiday efforts; Intercultural Family Services; John F. Kennedy Behavioral Health 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.

"We serve 400 to 500 children at three sites in Center City and North Philadelphia," said Fari Thompson, vice president of Behavioral Health Services at the John F. Kennedy Behavioral Health Center. "The gifts are wonderful - our therapists give the presents to the children at their meetings. All year, we look forward to the day the SEPTA bus comes with the packages."

This year, the toys were delivered to the Kennedy Center and other recipient organizations in the fanciest of SEPTA "sleighs" - a bus decorated for the holiday season by employees of the Frankford District and driven by operator Michele Noel (yes, her real name). The bus was packed to the roof with bags of toys and filled with Santa's special "SEPTA Helpers", who filled in for Kris Kringle by dropping off sacks stuffed with hundreds of toys.

"Yule Toy is one of the highlights of the year for us," said GM Joe Casey. "Our employees really do care about the community we serve, as demonstrated in their annual support of the toy drive. Thank you to all of our SEPTA staff who helped make this a great holiday for so many children."

Thousands toys, including games like these, were collected across the Authority and packaged for delivery to deserving children throughout the Delaware Valley.

Santa's "SEPTA Elves" pause before loading up the bus for their deliveries.

GM Joe Casey helped load up the festively decorated bus.

Employees Shannon Freeman (left) and Trayia Hill were among those who helped deliver toys to organizations across the SEPTA service region.

Bus operator Kim Braswell told 6ABC's Matt O'Donnell "We're in positions to help people who are in need."