For 6 years now, Overhead Door Company of Northwest Indiana has donated toys to Fieler Elementary School in Merrillville so that children in need can wake up to a joyful Christmas morning complete with presents under the tree. Collecting toys gifted by their fellow employees, customers, and company president, Nathan Carrasquillo and Jay Abeyta delivered their donation to Fieler on Friday morning.
Both Carrasquillo and Abeyta said that the toy drive is something they look forward to every year.
“We’re always looking for ways to give back to the community, and we’re fortunate enough as a company to be able to give back,” Carrasquillo said.
Annette Brown-Gilliam, Fieler Elementary School Social Worker, still remembers when the Overhead Door team reached out to her 6 years ago, during her first year at Fieler. Ever since, she and the rest of the “Fieler Family” look forward to the season.
“Every year, we get a call from Overhead Door around October, and we set a date for them to come with all the toys. In the meantime, we identify students in need through our school programs, or families contact us and we take it from there,” Gilliam said. “We try to not only serve the students in our school, but also their siblings, so the whole family is happy.”
Gilliam said that over the program has since grown tremendously. This year, over 50 families will benefit from the toy drive.
Lynne Peters, Principal of Fieler Elementary School, said that the donation benefits the children in more ways than imaginable.
“We’ve got many kids and many families who have been through significant trauma. It’s not just financial hard times—they’ve experienced and seen things that are heartbreaking to an adult,” Peters explained. “To be able to bring some joy and normalcy into those families is a big part of why they do this.”
“The kids are always the innocent ones,” echoed Beata Quanstrom, Teacher’s Aide. “And they don’t understand that their parents might not be able to provide gifts for them, they just know that Santa didn’t come to their house.”
Peters and Quanstrom expressed that the toy drive is just as significant to the parents as it is to the children.
“What you don’t see are the tears of these parents when they come pick up these presents,” Peters said.
“They send us the best they’ve got every single day, and they want to be able to give their kids more than they have, and when they can’t do that, it’s heartbreaking for them. That spirit of giving is most real to me when we give the parents those gifts and we step back, and they are the ones that wrap the presents and put them under the tree. It’s a wonderful thing to experience.”
“I have two nieces and a nephew, and I’m able to afford to buy them toys and to see how happy they are—I can only imagine kids and their loved ones not having that,” Abeyta said. “It’s Christmas time! When you’re little, all you’re thinking about is toys. All they know is to try to be happy.”
Abeyta and Carrasquillo explained how many of the donations were from their customers all across Northwest Indiana. The Fieler Family was ecstatic to see the ways the Region was reaching into the heart of the school.
“They always say it takes a village, and we’re thankful that you guys are a part of the village that is meeting the needs of our kids,” Peters said to the Overhead Door team.
“The days are gone where kids come to school, we teach them, and they go home,” she continued. “We have to support way more than just kids’ academic needs—we have to support families, we have to support our community. It’s been really great to see our Fieler Family extending beyond the walls of our school and into the community.”
Carrasquillo said that the team had also just delivered the sizeable food collection from their food drive to the Ross Township Food Pantry, further supporting the local community. Abeyta described Overhead Door Company of Northwest Indiana President Jim Cameron as a guy with a “heart of gold.”
“We’re lucky to have an owner who’s super generous,” he said. “This is actually the first place that I’ve worked where I feel like I have a ‘work family.’ Everybody cares.”
Peters, Quanstrom, and Gilliam thanked the pair again.
“What we all have in common is that we’re passionate about meeting the needs of these kids, and to have partners to do that is awesome,” Peters said.
“I know there are some families that would not be able to put anything under the tree for their kids, and that is the reality that we live in,” Quanstrom said. “You’re the reason these kids will get to open presents under their trees, and the cause of that joy. Thank you.”
For more information about Overhead Door Company, visit here.