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For the neediest kids

November 30, 2011

Photo by ERNEST A. BROWN.

WOONSOCKET — An old textile mill on Mendon Road was briefly transformed yesterday into a busy shipping zone for one of the state’s largest holiday toy drops for the needy.
The floor of the Bonin Spinning plant was jammed with pallets stacked high with cardboard boxes filled with new action figures, dolls and games donated by Pawtucket-based toymaker Hasbro Inc.
Brandon Keough, a spokesman for Hasbro, said the company donated 35,000 toys in all with an estimated retail value of $825,000. The toys are given to the neediest children in the state, who are identified by state Department of Human Services and the Rhode Island Community Action Association.
“Our goal is to make sure every boy or girl who needs a toy has one to open up on the holidays,” said Keough. “We do this because it’s part of who we are. Giving back is really a part of the company.”
This is the second year Hasbro has rented the factory complex, located 1265 Mendon Road, as a staging area for its seasonal charity, the Children’s Holiday Hope Fund. The complex is owned by Leo Beaudoin.
The gifts arrived at the warehouse last week in four tractor trailers and were muscled up a flight of stairs to a 25,000-square-foot, second-floor warehouse, chain-gang style, by a small army of Hasbro employee volunteers.
Clad in powder-blue T-shirts marked with a “Team Hasbro” logo, about 50 workers returned to the factory yesterday to finish sorting the packages for a network of distribution centers around the state.
“This is definitely a lot more physical than what we normally do,” said Hasbro veteran Maria Ferreira of East Providence as she hoisted a brown cardboard box onto a pallet.
“It feels good,” added Kathleen Doucette of Pawtucket.
The boxes workers were lifting, shrink-wrapping and stacking onto heavy wooden pallets contain some of Hasbro’s most popular products, from Transformers action figures like extraterrestrial Autobot Optimus Prime and the brainy board game “Scribblish” to “U-Built Battleship” and the Playskool “Sit N Spin.” But Hasbro doesn’t just throw a big pile of random toys out there for the needy. Working with its government and non-profit partners, the company goes to great lengths to provide exactly the right mix of age- and gender-appropriate toys that meet the specific needs of target families, says Keough.
The properly sorted gifts will be shipped out to eight distribution sites, where the parents of their intended recipients will pick them up at a pre-arranged time. Most of those distribution sites are non-profit outfits known as community action programs, or CAPs, which act as clearinghouses for a variety of social supports in various regions of the state.
Founded in 1923, Hasbro is one of the largest toymakers in the world, with an international workforce of 5,800, roughly 22 percent of them in Rhode Island. The company actually pays its employees up to four hours a month to perform the volunteer work of their choice. Around the holidays, many workers pitch in for the Children’s Holiday Hope Fund instead of working on projects outside the company.
“It feels great,” says Richard Hushion of Cumberland, a 23-year veteran of the logistics department. “We’re happy we can help people who are less fortunate, especially around this time of year.”

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