December 14 2018,  Saugus

The MEG Toy Drive

Veteran Pop Warner Coach teams up again with Saugus We Care to help make Christmas brighter for needy children

By Mark E. Vogler

THINGS ARE LOOKING UP FOR CHRISTMAS: Kevin Andrews takes an inventory of gifts that have been donated to the MEG Toy Drive he is spearheading again this year. The veteran Pop Warner and youth coach is teaming up with Alison Riley and Saugus We Care to make Christmas brighter for needy families. Anyone who wants to donate can drop off presents tomorrow (Saturday, Dec. 15) and next Wednesday (Dec. 19) at the MEG Building, which is located at 54-58 Essex St. in Saugus. (Saugus Advocate Photo by Mark E. Vogler)

Kevin Andrews is one of those guys who loves playing Santa Claus.

It all started back when he was 18 and he received a handmade Santa Claus suit from an aunt. “I still have that suit and have been playing Santa Claus ever since,” said Andrews, now 50, and a Santa who also spearheads toy drives for needy children.

Andrews, a 1986 Saugus High School graduate, has volunteered 32 years as a Pop Warner coach. He’s also spent thousands of hours over the years working for a number of youth sports organizations – American Little League, National Little League, Town Team Basketball, Saugus Youth Hockey and JV Hockey for Saugus High School – all for free.

“I know so many kids in this town that when I decided to do toy drives, I knew that getting the toys wasn’t going to be a problem,” Andrews said.

“Getting toys wasn’t an issue. I knew I wanted to help, but I didn’t know how to find the families that need that help around Christmas,” he said.

Since teaming up with Alison Riley and Saugus We Care three years ago, that’s no longer a problem. Andrews just focuses on getting the toys while Riley uses her network to find the families who are in need. Their toy drive last year was able to help 22 families that combined for 60 to 70 kids.

“Our biggest drive was three years ago when we had close to 100 kids from 31 or 32 families,” he said.

Andrews vowed that he will continue doing the toy drive as long as he can – and as long as he knows there is a need for it.

“It’s very humbling,” he said, recalling the case of a father he met two years ago who was raising seven children by himself. “I had seven contractor-sized bags of toys left when I showed up at his house,” Andrews said.

“He asked me what bag was his. When I said ‘all of them,’ he burst into tears. It’s times like that, you’re glad that you do it. As long as I keep helping, I will keep doing it. We’ve helped well over a hundred families since I started doing this five years ago.”

He vowed to keep playing Santa, too. “When you show up in a Santa suit, it’s like the Beatles walked in the door,” he said, referring to the world-famous English rock band that formed in 1960.

“Kids just get excited,” he said.

Andrews said he plans to be wearing a new Santa suit when he does a shift collecting toys at the MEG Building tomorrow night.

Anyone who wants to donate can drop off presents tomorrow (Saturday, Dec. 15) and next Wednesday (Dec. 19) from 6 to 8 p.m. at the MEG Building (54-58 Essex St., Saugus).

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