by: David F. Ashton, Volunteers Kiri Griebel and Jenna Hollinger work with NewsChannel 8’s Kelly Schweiger, who told us that this particular Southeast Portland location hosts one of the most productive toy drop-off locations in all of Portland.

As the frenzied holiday shopping season gets under way, many vehicles pulling into shopping malls will be leaving packed with gifts to be placed under the Christmas tree.

But on Saturday, December 1st, the steady line of vehicles that pulled into Eastport Plaza, on S.E. 82nd Avenue of Roses, just north of Holgate, arrived already full of new toys - and left empty. Their drivers were participating in an area-wide toy drive.

Many of those who donated came individually. But we also saw organized groups of vehicles, whose drivers belonged to various clubs, lining up to make donations. One set of cars sported canine companions - and many of the pug pups inside them were dressed in costume.

Soon after, a squadron of 'bugs' lined up outside the 'NewsChannel 8 Toy Drive' collection trailer.

'We're from the Absolutely Volkswagen Club,' explained member John Jenson, who was driving his '63 VW Beetle convertible. 'It's a good thing to do.'

'Participating in this event is one way we're involved with the community we serve,' said Eastport Plaza's manager Ken Turner. 'Offering our site for the toy collection drive is one small way of helping our community.'

Most of the toys collected at the event will go to local nonprofit organizations on the east side, Turner added. 'The Wattles Boys and Girls Club in Lents and the Meyer Boys and Girls Club in Sellwood will benefit directly from the generosity of Southeast Portlanders today.'

Turner said the organizers of the toy drive say that this particular toy collection location is one of the most productive in the city. 'It is a good indication how much people care about others in their neighborhoods.'

We watch as children bring brand-new toys to the volunteers at the collection truck, and we agree with Turner who observed, 'When you see the smiles on the faces of little kids, when they bring up a gift which they know will go to a needy child, it warms your heart. It shows that these children are already learning the true spirit of Christmas.'

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