Dixfield Discount Fuel employees Katie Houghton, left, and Missy McDonald pose with gifts donated to date for the annual toy drive, to be presented to local children, ages 5 to 12, in need. (Bruce Farrin/Rumford Falls Times)

RUMFORD — Employees at Dixfield Discount Fuel have already collected nearly 50 gifts in their ninth annual toy drive.

Office Manager Katie Houghton said workers began Oct. 20, receiving donations at the River Valley Pumpkin Fest in Rumford.

Employees also accept cash donations. Last year, $250 received purchased clothing for children.

“We get things that are required, that kids need,” Houghton said.

Last year’s toy drive brought in more than 400 items for local children ages 5 to 12.

“We did a whole truckload to Meroby Elementary in Mexico and the Pennacook School in Rumford,” Houghton said, adding that more items were donated to the Green Church in Mexico.

“It was fantastic. We ended up doing three whole truckloads of toys,” she said.

There are drop-off boxes outside the company’s office at 1180 Route 2, and at Rumford American Legion, Rumford and Mexico fire departments, P’Zazz on Weld Street in Dixfield, the Rumford Town Office and Aubuchon Hardware in Rumford.

“This is my favorite project that I have ever been involved in,” Houghton said. “I have grown up in this area and it proves over and over that the River Valley is a great community.”

The mother of two got teary-eyed talking about the impact of the holiday effort.

“We help a lot of people. It’s pretty exciting. I get people, after this, that say ‘thank you,'” Houghton said.

As an incentive to donate, Dixfield Discount Fuel customers who contribute a new unwrapped gift can get a $10 credit on their account, and those opening an account also can get a $10 credit, Houghton said.

“It’s not just for people who already have an account here,” Houghton said. “Anyone can donate toys and gifts here for local kids.”

Among the items needed are backpacks, fishing poles, tackle boxes, basketballs and football. Also popular are board games and blocks, and handmade mittens and hats.

A decision on which schools will receive donations will be made later, with deliveries around the second week of December.

“We rotate (schools) every year,” Houghton said. “When we get so much, we don’t know where to go with it all. By mid-November, we ask who needs it. We know that Rumford Elementary needs it, and Dirigo Elementary needs it this year. So we might be able to do both, if we’re lucky. That’s what I’d like to do.”

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