January 21, 2022

A way to give back

Craft fair in Dryden benefits Cops, Toys & Kids

Sarah Bullock/staff reporter

Two-month-old Danny VanDonsel snuggles against his mother, Mandy VanDonsel, of Dryden, Saturday at the Cops, Toys & Kids Craft Fair at the Dryden Veterans of Foreign War

A red-and-green chest filled to the top with bright toys sat by the front door of the Dryden Veterans of Foreign Wars post Saturday as donations for Cops, Toys & Kids stacked up.

A craft fair attracted shoppers inside to deliver the toys bound for Tompkins County children in need. Christmas stockings, baked goods, ornaments and jewelry bedecked the halls as shoppers strolled past.

Dolores Sober, of Dryden, said she organized the fair to benefit the Cornell University Police Department’s Cops, Toys & Kids program as a way to give back.

“My family had to use this a few times when my kids were young,” said Sober, who has seven children.
The years when her youngest was about 3 and her oldest about 12 were especially lean, Sober recalled. “It was very, very helpful.”

Now that her children are grown, Sober donates $20 worth of toys to the Cops, Toys & Kids box at her workplace every week of the program’s drive. Organizing Saturday’s craft fair gave her the opportunity to do even more, Sober said.

“Hopefully, it helps the kids out,” she said.

Mary Wilson, of Dryden, attended the fair not intending just to admire the other women’s handicrafts. Then she spotted a pumpkin roll.

“I bought a dessert for Thanksgiving,” Wilson said. “They look delicious.”

Andrea Anastasiso, of Ithaca, came to the craft fair with her 2-month-old son, Caysen Adams to hangout with her friend, Mandy VanDonsel, and her friend’s 2-month-old son, Danny VanDonsel. The pair became pals at a prenatal mom’s group, VanDonsel said.

“They’re about a week apart,” she said, looking at their babies.

Anastasiso admired the Christmas decorations VanDonsel was selling at the fair.

“I love ornaments,” she said. “She’s (VanDonsel) been working very hard on them.”

Alongside VanDonsel’s wooden ornaments were items with decals she designed on them.

In the next booth over, VanDonsel’s designs appeared on ribbon hair bows created by her friend Tasha Engels. Engels, a mom of two girls, decided she was spending too much on hairbows for her daughter and opted to craft and sell them instead.

“This is my escape from parenting,” said Engels. “It’s my creative outlet.”