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Toys for Tots effort underway

Donating a toy or other gift can go a long way to ensuring a child has a happy Christmas, say organizers of the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots program that is now underway in Jamestown. "A lot of people say they are very grateful and tha...

Mona Elsner, left, daughter of Sheila Ova, right, sorts through toys donated by Toys R Us in Fargo. The two coordinate the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots program that is now underway in Jamestown with around 10 volunteers. Tom LaVenture / The Sun
Mona Elsner, left, daughter of Sheila Ova, right, sorts through toys donated by Toys R Us in Fargo. The two coordinate the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots program that is now underway in Jamestown with around 10 volunteers. Tom LaVenture / The Sun

Donating a toy or other gift can go a long way to ensuring a child has a happy Christmas, say organizers of the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots program that is now underway in Jamestown.

"A lot of people say they are very grateful and that if it wouldn't have been for this program they don't know what they would do for gifts," said Sheila Ova, who coordinates Toys for Tots with the help of her daughter, Mona Elsner, and around 10 volunteers. "For me it's knowing that kids that are out there that wouldn't get anything for Christmas are getting at least something."

The need has increased in each of the 11 years they have organized the event and especially now that the outreach has expanded to 50 miles around Jamestown, Ova said. There were 148 families with 393 children signed up for gifts in 2015, she said. That is almost 100 more children than the 272 children signed up in 2014, she said.

There are families who have signed up for Toys for Tots this year who were served in past years. There are also new families who are facing a financial crisis as a single-parent household, have suffered a house fire, a medical issue or a death in the family, Ova said. Even a car problem can take away valuable savings, she said.

There are 27 drop box locations around Jamestown including Wal-Mart, Menards, Home of Economy, Top Designers Salon and Spa, the three major car dealerships, both grocery stores, Perkins Restaurant & Bakery, banks, the credit union, Jamestown Regional Medical Center, Jamestown Implement, Conlin's Furniture and others, she said.

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There are major donors and a $1,000 credit from Toys R Us helps to fill the gaps in age groups, Ova said. Donations can include handmade toys and dolls or cash but not clothing or used toys, she said.

"Teens is our hardest group because a lot of the things they want are more expensive," Ova said. "Books are also good gifts."

Teen gifts can include cologne and perfumes, bath sets, tool kits and electronics, she said. Movies and video games are not usually encouraged because it is difficult for parents to know if they have them already, she said.

Other popular items other than toys include duffel and tote bags, selfie sticks, purses, curling irons and halogen flashlights, she said.

There are occasional high-price item gifts such as bicycles, wagon, dollhouses and even laptops, Ova said. These items are distributed by drawing names among the families most in need, she said.

"You can't put them on the shelf or it wouldn't be fair," Ova said. "Otherwise how do you do that?"

The distribution day will be Dec. 10 when families can come to the Anne Carlsen Center gymnasium by appointment.

"We give them time to shop and don't rush them," Elsner said.

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The drop boxes will be left up until around Dec. 15 to continue helping last-minute families until Dec. 23.

One local Marine will be present and in uniform for the second straight year on distribution day. Norberto Rivera, who runs LaValle Flooring in Valley City, is also a lance corporal in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve who is stationed in the Twin Cities.

For more information on the program, call Ova after 4 p.m. at 952-3603.

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