Collection drive helps remind local soldiers of home and also supports area charity's efforts

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:17

    NEWTON-A car showroom can hold quite a few cars. In the case of a Newton dealership, it can also hold some answered prayers for those in need. Condit's Ford's showroom in Newton is doubling as a charity collection point for the next few months, where local residents can drop off everything from Frisbees and baseball mitts to old cell phones and bottles of shampoo. The Frisbees and baseball mitts, among other items, will go to local members of the National Guard 2-102nd Armored Division, serving in Cuba. "People have been so wonderful," said Candace Ringleben, customer relations manager at Condit, who is organizing the drive. She said last week a man brought in his baseball mitt and bat to send to the soldiers in Cuba, hoping his two uncles, who are both serving there, might recognize it. The local National Guard division includes residents of Newton, Hackettstown, Phillipsburg, Somerset, West Orange and Port Murray. The National Guard's Family Readiness Group has requested donations of international phone cards with 100 or more minutes, bandanas, toiletries, AA and AAA batteries, volleyballs, coffee, spoons, ladles and DVD movies. Five other local charities are part of the drive. Used cell phones are being collected for Domestic Abuse Services Inc., and used prescription eyeglasses are being collected for the Lions Club. The Manna House will be getting donated canned goods and Project Self Sufficiency will get baby toiletries, laundry detergent, toothpaste, toilet paper and paper towels. Pass It Along is looking for "lovingly used" winter coats and jackets for children, yarn, stocking stuffers and sample-sized toiletries. The charity drive is an extension of a family fun week sponsored by Condit in late September. Ford offers its local dealerships to host a "Commitment to Kids' day, in which children are photographed through the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children's program. Condit took it a leap further and sponsored a day full of family activities, giving parents lots of reasons to bring their children in to be photographed. "We decided, why waste this facility?" Ringleben said. "So we cleared out the showroom and brought everything in." The National Guard unit, as well as other branches of the military, brought a climbing wall, tanks and other demonstrations. There was karaoke, free eye exams and blood pressure screenings, food and games, and, of course, the large boxes for donations to local charities. The cars are now back in the showroom, but the boxes for collecting donations will remain through Christmas, Ringleben said. And magnetic yellow ribbons will be sold there, with proceeds going to the Family Readiness Group. Ringleben said next year's family day will be a bigger, two-day event. Condit's Ford World is located on Route 206 just north of downtown Newton. Donations may be dropped off between 9 a.m. and 8 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays through the end of the year.