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Nobles County Toys for Tots collects donations during largest campaign yet

“Right now our number for registered children in Nobles County is around 700,” Harrington said of the local Toys for Tots campaign. “Our goal is to provide three toys per child, so if we can get our toy count up to 2,500, that would be great.”

Collection day
The Buffalo Ridge Young Marines held their annual toy drive for the Nobles County Toys for Tots campaign at Memorial Auditorium on Saturday, Dec. 3.
Emma McNamee
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WORTHINGTON — It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas — at least inside Worthington’s Memorial Auditorium and Performing Arts Center, where, on Saturday the Buffalo Ridge Young Marines hosted its annual Toys for Tots toy drive.

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Complete with Christmas tree, hot chocolate and boxes for toys — and of course, Santa Clause and a festively dressed Grinch — the doors opened at 9 a.m. Two hours later, Unit Commander Dan Harrington and the Young Marines volunteering had collected three boxes filled with toys, and were hopeful more would be on their way.

“Right now our number for registered children in Nobles County is around 700,” Harrington said of the local Toys for Tots campaign. “Our goal is to provide three toys per child, so if we can get our toy count up to 2,500, that would be great.”

The group has collected approximately 800 toys so far, and donation opportunities continue through the coming weeks. Donation boxes are available at local stores like Walgreens and Schwalbach Ace Hardware. Area banks are participating in an ongoing collection competition in which whoever collects the most will be awarded a trophy and bragging rights for the next year.

“We’ve got our ‘Stuff the Bus’ event coming up next Friday,” Harrington added. The event will take place at Worthington’s Hy-Vee, where volunteers will attempt to fill a bus with donated toys.

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Halfway though the toy drive, four-year-old Estelle Nienkerk arrived with her grandma, a puzzle and a bag of coins — the contents of her piggy bank — to donate.

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Four-year-old Estelle donated the contents of her piggy bank to the local Toys for Tots campaign.

“We explained to her how some kids don’t get toys,” Lori Nienkerk, of Worthington, said while Estelle took a photo with Santa by the tree. “She wanted to give something.”

During its first Toys for Tots drive, donations went to 161 kids. Now, as the Buffalo Ridge Young Marines are part way through their fourth campaign, the number of children have increased exponentially. While Toys for Tots is also collecting in Fairmont this year, Harrington hopes they will be able to launch a campaign in Jackson County as well next time around. Between the two campaigns, there are over 1,000 children registered.

Applications are received starting in October, and open until the first week of December. Once the application pool closes, it’s time to take stock of age groups and the number of kids.

“Walmart and Walgreens this year put $3,000 towards toys,” Harrington said, “and we get a lot of small monetary donations and use those funds to buy toys.”

A total of 120 toys and $50 in monetary donations were received during Saturday’s drive. Donations will be accepted for a few more weeks, and on Dec. 17, volunteers will hand out wrapped presents during the parent pickup.

“It can be very emotional,” Harrington said. “You see it when parents come to pick up the toys and they’re crying and thanking you. You know you’ve done a good thing.”

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Emma McNamee joined The Globe team in October 2021 as a reporter covering Crime & Courts, Politics, and the City beats. Born and raised in Duluth, Minn., McNamee left her hometown to attend school in Chicago at Columbia College. She graduated in 2021 with a degree in Multimedia Journalism, with a concentration in News & Feature Writing and a minor in Creative Writing.
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