Sheila Ova says about 330 children in the Jamestown area have been referred to help have a merrier Christmas this year. The coordinator for Toys for Tots through the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve says she expects that number to grow.
“It’s for children with a family who have low income, no income that are not going to be getting a gift for Christmas,” Ova said. “And so it’s to ensure that the kids will get something for Christmas.”
Last year, 631 children in 242 families in this region each received a few Christmas gifts through the program, and Ova expects to help about the same number this year.
J-D Backhaus, general manager of Menards in Jamestown, said the store puts out a large box for donations to Toys for Tots. It’s wrapped to look like a large Christmas present and placed near the front of the store where the registers and the toys are located so it’s highly visible as well.
“It’s something that we do every year,” he said. “It’s an amazing program. I love doing it, my team members get super involved. My department managers get super involved. I love it, I think it’s a great program.”
Ova’s been coordinating the program in the Jamestown area for more than 15 years.
“I have a niece that did it way back then, she was doing it in Bismarck,” she said. “And she said I should do it here. And I said, ‘Well, I do so many things I don’t know that I have time.’ And she said, ‘Think of all those poor kids that are not getting a Christmas, aren’t getting anything for Christmas,’ and so I guess she sold me on that.”
Ova noted her son, Jereomy, was a Marine. Her daughter, Mona Elsner, is her assistant with the program.
“I reach out in a 50-mile radius of Jamestown,” Ova said. “I’ve had people from Oakes come and get (gifts), too, and Ellendale,” she said. She said she is seeing some effects of the coronavirus pandemic on families.
“I have had some people that I’ve gotten referrals from that said with this COVID, like one of the two spouses are not employed or they’ve got COVID so with having COVID and being quarantined at home, their income is down," she said.
Referral forms for the program are available through Buffalo Bridges Human Service Zone (formerly social services in Barnes and Stutsman counties) and schools in the region, Ova said. Safe Shelter and individuals have also made referrals, Ova said. But anyone who missed the Nov. 13 deadline to refer a child can still do so by contacting Ova, she said. She will take names of children to help until Dec. 20, she said.
“Some people hear about it later or need help later because something happens like a fire in a house or some kind of financial thing,” Ova said.
To reach Ova, call 952-3603 or write her at:
216 9th Ave. NE
Jamestown, ND 58401
Toys for Tots gives toys or age-appropriate gifts (no clothing) to children who are age newborn through 18. Children receiving gifts cannot have dropped out of school. An expectant mother cannot apply for the program for the expected baby, Ova said.
“They (the children) get up to $25 to $30 worth of gifts and if we have enough games that are donated then we will give each family a game or a puzzle so that they have family time,” Ova said. “And then we usually do stocking stuffers.”
Makeup, nail polish, perfume, a string of lights that kids want to use to decorate their rooms and learning toys are among the requested items this year, Ova said. Toys that look like real weapons, guns or knives cannot be distributed.
This year’s distribution will look a little different, due to the coronavirus pandemic. Parents/guardians used to come and pick out gifts, Ova said. The distribution on Dec. 12 will be a drive-up event by appointment where they will pick up gifts readied for them at the Gladstone Inn & Suites.
How to help
There are more than 20 Toys for Tots drop box locations in Jamestown for people to contribute, Ova said. People can donate new unwrapped gifts at the locations until Dec. 14.
“People can purchase items for under $25 and then they just place them in those toy drop boxes or they can call me, too, and make arrangements to drop them off at my house,” Ova said.
Anyone who would prefer to contribute money can mail a check made out to Toys For Tots to Ova. Donations are placed into the Marine Corps account for Jamestown. All monetary donations and gifts are recorded through the program, she said.
Backhaus, of Menards, says providing a drop box location is one way Menards can help and support the community. He said the public has been very supportive of Toys for Tots at the store.
“We have families that come in and I've gotten the opportunity to talk with them, and they tell us that every year it’s their tradition (to donate)," he said. "Every year the kids come in and they pick out a toy that they’re going to donate to another family … "
Ova said she has several regular donors to the program. One couple who wishes to remain anonymous has purchased gifts every year to donate, she said.
“It’s wonderful. It is really great,” she said. “Very much appreciated and I know the families really appreciate it, too. Any donation is very much appreciated.”
Toys for Tots drop box locations in Jamestown
Cash Wise Foods
Dr. Dawn’s Pet Stop
First Community Credit Union (3 locations)
Home of Economy
Hugo’s Family Marketplace
Jamestown Regional Medical Center
Two Rivers Activity Center
Wilhelm Chevrolet Buick GMC