Around 100 people, including residents, village administrators and visitors, attended Mayor Rory Hoskin’s Toy Drive at the American Legion on Dec. 12. 

The event was a continuation of Forest Park tradition, hosted in previous years by former mayor Anthony Calderone. The goal is to collect toys and gift cards for children in the community. These are distributed with food baskets to needy families on Dec. 23. This Community Center project is coordinated by center director Karen Dylewski and her staff. 

This year, Hoskins was able to secure a corporate donation of $1,000 in addition to contributions of toys and gift cards. The donation was made by Infrastructure Engineering Inc., an Evanston company Hoskins reached out to because he knows the owner.

Food for the event was free for guests bringing a gift for the toy drive and was supplied by Smokin M’s, located at 7507 Roosevelt Rd.

Hoskins said some families showed up to the event with “cash or handfuls (literally) of gift cards” for the older children, and Dylewski described piles of toys collected during the event and the weeks leading up to it.

“It’s amazing,” said Dylewski. “This town is beyond generous. It always blows me away how much people are willing to give.”

Hoskins expressed gratitude at the turn-out and generosity of people. Some families who showed up, he said, included three generations of family members. 

Commissioners Jessica Voogd and Joe Byrnes were in attendance, and Commissioner Ryan Nero, who was traveling for work, sent a gift with his wife Tracy. Village Administrator Tim Gillian and his wife Dorothy Gillian, Forest Park Chamber president, enjoyed the evening, as did Fire Chief Bob McDermott, Police Chief Tom Aftanas, Finance Director Leticia Olmstead and Village Clerk Vanessa Moritz. 

Members of both the Forest Park fire department and police department showed up. Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson also attended.

“It was a nice opportunity for the American Legion to show off the newly renovated facility,” said Hoskins.  “We had a local family bring their patriarch, who is a 95-year-old WWII veteran named Tony Gulyas.”

People interested in helping distribute the toys and gift cards along with hams, turkeys and food boxes to families in the community are invited to show up at the Howard Mohr Community Center (7640 Jackson Blvd.) on Dec. 23 at 9:30 a.m.