CELORON – Coming off of a record year in terms of the number of children supported through the toy drive, organizers of the local Marine Toys for Tots campaign are counting on the community’s generosity to make this year’s effort a success.
For the 18th straight year, The Resource Center is coordinating the Toys for Tots drive in Chautauqua County. Assisting in operating the campaign again this year are Chautauqua Connections, Inc., and the Chautauqua Connections Children’s Coalition.
Begun in 1947, the Marine Toys for Tots campaign seeks to deliver a message of hope to less-fortunate children throughout the United States by providing them with toys for Christmas. More than 700 toy drives are held nation-wide each year. The Resource Center has led the local toy drive since 2001. About 2,400 usually are supported through the annual toy drive, and last year more than 2,600 Chautauqua County children received gifts.
The biggest change in the way this year’s drive will operate is that families – themselves, or through their children’s school or service coordinator – are encouraged to apply for assistance online. To do that, people should visit www.toysfortots.org and click on the “Donate or Request a Toy” link, then follow the steps to navigate to the Chautauqua County campaign.
People without internet access can apply in person. Walk-in applications will be accepted in The Resource Center’s facility at 407 East Chestnut Street in Dunkirk from noon to 3:00 on Thursday, November 29. For Jamestown-area residents, applications will be accepted in The Resource Center’s offices at 200 Dunham Avenue from 1:00 to 4:00 on Friday, November 30, and from 9:00 to noon Saturday, December 1.
All applicants must bring identification for themselves and their children living in their household, as well as proof of household income. Children age 17 and younger whose families meet household income guidelines are eligible for assistance through Toys for Tots. Efforts are made to help all families that apply for assistance.
“If there is a need, we will do what we can to help,” said The Resource Center’s Terri Johnson, one of the toy drive’s lead organizers.
She and her colleagues are pleased with the outpouring of support they have received thus far. Toy collection boxes have been placed at more than 100 locations, and a number of businesses and organizations will be holding events to raise money and toys. The goal of the toy drive is to collect enough toys to provide one large gift and at least one stocking stuffer to every child who is registered to receive assistance.
The Resource Center’s primary mission is supporting people with disabilities. While many people with disabilities benefit from Toys for Tots each year, TRC also coordinates the annual toy drive in order to give back to the community. Though TRC organizes the toy campaign, support from area residents and businesses makes the effort a success.
“We are so fortunate to be working with so many community partners to bring Toys for Toys to Chautauqua County again this year,” said TRC’s Heather C. Brown, another of the lead organizers. “We can’t do this without the many donors, volunteers and supporters. Each year we are concerned that the donations will not equal the need, and each year this community pulls together to be sure each child has a present to open on Christmas morning, and we are thankful that we can play a part in making that happen.”
In addition to placing toys in the collection boxes that are located at dozens of area businesses, people can donate toys by attending the Jamestown holiday parade Friday, November 30, and placing their gifts on The Resource Center’s Toys for Tots float. On Friday, December 7, the third annual “Teddy Bear Toss” will take place at Northwest Arena, with fans encouraged to throw teddy bears onto the ice after the Jamestown Rebels score their first goal. The bears will be donated to Toys for Tots.
Cash donations also are welcome, as the money is used to buy gifts for children in age groups that typically do not receive a lot of toy donations. The Resource Center will host a Holiday Shopping Extravaganza at 200 Dunham Avenue in Saturday, December 8, and proceeds from the event will go to Toys for Tots. People can also donate by mailing a check (made payable to Toys for Tots) to The Resource Center, 200 Dunham Avenue, Jamestown, NY, 14701.
With thousands of toys being donated, organizers need a large warehouse space to safely store the toys. For the fourth straight year, Allied Alarm Services has donated the use of its facilities to store the toys that are donated. Mike Roberts, the owner of Allied Alarm, said he and his staff welcome the opportunity to support the toy drive.
“It’s become part of who we are. We love doing it,” Roberts said. “We’re all so blessed. For us to be able to give a little bit back and bring some smiles to children’s faces is an honor.”
During the first three weekends in December, volunteers will be sorting toys and preparing them for distribution. Organizers are seeking volunteers to assist with this effort. Anyone interested can phone Brown at 661-1042 for more information.
Updates on the toy drive, including the dates of fund-raising events and a list of businesses where collection boxes are located, can be found by visiting the Chautauqua County, New York – Toys for Tots 2018 Facebook page.