Barrow officials launch annual 'Empty Stocking Toy Drive'

WINDER -- Nothing dampens the holiday spirit like an empty stocking.

Knowing this, officials in Barrow County launched their annual "Empty Stocking Toy Drive" this weekend. The weeklong initiative channels toys to lesser privileged kids strictly within the county.

Expect firefighters and their famed canine mascot, Sparky, at a national retailer near you.

Lt. Scott Dakin, Barrow County Emergency Services spokesman, called the drive a vital service, especially in times of economic hardship. The goal this year is to help "several hundred" kids, he said.

"We're hoping all citizens will give generously," Dakin said.

The initiative kicked off Saturday. It continues next Saturday in the parking lot of the Winder Target and Staples from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Firefighters will be on hand to collect toy and monetary donations.

All toys must be new and unwrapped.

With the help of holiday shoppers, "We can make sure every child in Barrow County can wake up to presents under the tree," Dakin said.

Anyone wishing to drop toys off at any Barrow County fire station can do so until Dec. 13, when the collection period ends, Dakin said.