For the past 14 years, Al Roop’s holiday toy drive has brought joy to underprivileged families around Delaware. The drop-off, which benefited People In Need of Delaware County, would also include local firefighters and fire trucks, an extension of Roop’s favorite memories of toy fire trucks on Christmas.
But like so many things this year, the ongoing pandemic has forced the cancellation of the toy drive, forcing Roop to get creative in how he can still contribute this holiday season. His solution was to auction off a custom HO train layout he constructed himself while at home during the shutdown.
“Staying at home (during the shutdown), I decided to do something I’ve always wanted to do anyway,” Roop said, adding that he has always enjoyed model building as a hobby. “I decided to build a model railroad that turned out pretty cool … It was a great experience.”
The layout, measuring 3-feet-8-inches by 7-feet-8-inches, features highly-detailed scenery that includes more than 100 trees, a lake, mountains, model cars, and more. In total, Roop said he put more than 260 hours of his time, across 71 days, into completing the project, a process he said was “pretty rewarding” to finish.
While he didn’t know at the time of the build that it would ultimately be taking the place of his annual toy drive, Roop said he knew the train would ultimately benefit People In Need and the families it supports in some fashion. As it played out, the train represented a perfect filler for the toy drive in less-than-ideal circumstances this year.
Roop said there has been “some good interest” in the train layout already, although he doesn’t expect the total of bids to be extremely high. Still, Roop said he expects the train to bring in a good amount, adding that he will gladly accept whatever the high bid is because of what it will mean for struggling families during the Christmas season.
Whatever the layout fetches from the winning bidder, 100% of the money will go towards the purchase of gift cards that will be donated to People In Need for its Christmas Clearing House program. The program allows children to pick out a gift, with gifts for all age levels being purchased for the event.
Roop said a $2,500 winning bid would allow for 83 gift cards of $30 to be donated, and should the bidding reach $3,000, 100 gift cards could be donated to the program. According to a press release for the auction, the train layout is valued at approximately $3,400.
Despite the cancellation of the toy drop-off, Roop said it will be “neat to see the program live on for a 15th year through a different avenue.” Asked if he expects the toy drive to resume next season if feasible, Roop said he looks forward to being back to normal in 2021.
All bids must be submitted via email at email@example.com, with a subject line that reads, “Al’s train set.” The email must include the bidder’s first and last name, address, phone number, bid amount, and any special instructions regarding pickup or delivery should they win.
Bidding will close at noon on Friday, Nov. 20, at which time the winning bidder will be contacted by phone and email. If no response is received within three business days, the next highest bid will be identified as the winner. Should there be multiple winning bids of the same amount, the bidder whose email was received first based on the time stamp will be awarded the train layout.
For any additional questions on the auction, contact People In Need, Inc. at 740-363-6284.
Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @DillonDavis56.