DAVID GREENE, HOST:
This is MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm David Greene.
Tonight, on this Christmas Eve, residents of Newtown, Connecticut are being encouraged to light candles. The luminaries are a way of remembering the victims of the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School. They're also a way to mark the holidays. Toys from all over the world are pouring into Newtown, and there's a feeling in the community that some holiday spirit will be a sign that life can go on.
Diane Orson of member station WNPR reports.
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DIANE ORSON, BYLINE: The gymnasium at Edmond Town Hall in the center of Newtown is full of toys piled high.
ANN BENORE: Starting Monday after the tragedy, we started to receive truckloads of stuffed animals and toys.
ORSON: Ann Benore is a caseworker for Newtown Social Services.
BENORE: When I realized that it was getting so large, I thought that we should get this to the children before the holidays.
ORSON: Benore has organized this toy giveaway for all Newtown children and families. There's a special collection for students of Sandy Hook Elementary School who survived the massacre.
BENORE: We've gotten over 60,000 stuffed animals, toys - I - gosh - I mean, thousands.
ORSON: In this community turned upside-down, it's a time to escape the sorrow and enjoy the spirit of the season. All toys were first examined by local police. There's a group of officers standing at the back of the gym. Children ooh and ahh as they enter, and are handed bags. They walk through and choose cuddly bears or games, or both.
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ORSON: In one area, volunteers show youngsters how to make Christmas ornaments. Seventeen-year-old Brittany Noonan traveled here from the other end of the state to help out.
BRITTANY NOONAN: I see a lot of toys and lot of happy little kids.
ORSON: In another area, teacher Christina Morse Scala is helping residents draw and paint and create sculpture with donated art supplies. Scala says art can heal emotional wounds.
CHRISTINA MORSE SCALA: It allows them to express without having to use words. It gives them an opportunity to reflect, you know, bring them to a safe place.
ORSON: Parents in Newtown acknowledge they're having a hard time figuring out how to handle the holidays.
At a shop down the road called Everything Newtown, co-owner Teri Brunelli says her family will find a way to celebrate this year.
TERI BRUNELLI: I have four kids at home. I think it's important to celebrate. The kids need to feel safe, and I think the only way to do that is to give them something that's normal again. We can't just stop. We have to take the next step forward.
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ORSON: For Brunelli and other families in Newtown, this year, the holiday will be a time to celebrate life and meaning that endure beyond tragedy.
For NPR News, I'm Diane Orson, in Newtown.