No child should go without a toy for the holidays. Each and every year, Toys for Tots is around to provide for the less fortunate. This year, as a result of the COVID pandemic, there are more children than ever in need. Parents are struggling. Many have been laid off or had hours cut. Many have had to deal with high medical bills as a result of testing positive for the coronavirus.
Toys for Toys is celebrating its 29th year of helping families to get into the holiday spirit by providing toys throughout Wisconsin. Across the country, they’ve been doing it since 1947.
The pandemic has caused the need to change the way in which the nonprofit operates. Although they’re changing the way they work, they’re not changing the way in which they offer holiday spirit.
“Every kid deserves to open a present on Christmas Day,” explains Dana Kaminski, one of the organizers for Portage County, Wisconsin.
Since the organization first started, they’ve distributed 584 million toys and ensured that 265 million children have been supported.
2019 was a record year…but what about this year? It’s going to be different but that doesn’t mean that kids will wake up on Christmas morning to nothing.
In Portage County, Wisconsin, there were 1800 children under the age of 18 that benefited from the program. This year, the county’s numbers are expected to be up over 2,000.
It’s understandable. Families are struggling to make ends meet. Kids have had a tough year, and the last thing that any family wants to deal with is explaining to the kids why Santa didn’t visit.
Very few people want to raise their hands and ask for help. However, Toys for Tots has always been about helping. Drop-off locations can be found in every town. Businesses are happy to place a box to collect. And families can sign up to receive help easily online or by making a call.
Normally, the parents that sign up for the program get to shop inside of “Santa’s workshop.”
That’s not the way that it’s going to be in most cities. Instead, there’s the need to go contactless. It’s the best way to protect the families and volunteers.
Instead of “shopping” for the toys in person, they’ll request a specific toy when they fill out the application. Then, volunteers will bring that item out at the time of pick up.
Many families will get “adopted” by local businesses. As more applications come in, there’s more of a need for the community to ban together. Amazon wish lists are available on every city’s Toys for Tots page. It makes it possible for anyone wishing to volunteer to know exactly what to buy based on the requests from families. Further, it prevents extra handling of the gifts. Amazon will ship directly to the Toys for Tots center to ensure that the toys get properly distributed.
Across the country, most of the Toys for Tots centers are not setting final dates for toy recipient registration. Families in need can sign up at any given time until the last day of distribution, assuming inventory is still available.
It’s not just Toys for Tots filling the need for toys, either. Virtually every city or county around the U.S. has some kind of nonprofit set up so that families in need are able to hand out presents on Christmas morning.
It’s been a tough year, and it’s not over yet. Those in need can get help just by asking. For those who have the money and want to be generous, there are plenty of ways to donate cash or toys for little ones.
COVID has been affecting the children enough this year. If communities ban together, we can at least make sure that everyone gets a visit from Santa. Toys for Tots and others are stepping in to make sure it happens, even if it means that things are a bit more computerized than in years past.