Toys for Tots makes Christmas special for 1,000-plus Nobles County children
The need proved greater than the residents of Nobles County could provide. One day before distribution, three pallets filled with donations arrived via truck from the Toys for Tots Foundation.
WORTHINGTON — Dozens of large, black plastic bags were sorted in piles on the floor of Max 493 Saturday morning as the local U.S. Marine Corps Toys for Tots campaign prepared to distribute 5,065 donated toys to families of 1,013 Nobles County children.
Despite the frigid temperatures outside, smiles were evident on the faces of adults in minivans, small cars and SUVs as they drove up to the door, provided their information to a Toys for Tots volunteer and waited for their children’s toys to be brought to their vehicle.
Magnolia, of Worthington, was among the first in line to pick up the gifts for her five children, ages 4, 9, 12, 14 and 16. She didn’t know how many gifts each child would get, but she was grateful for the program.
“It means a lot — it’s helpful for us,” she said, adding that her kids were already wondering what they were going to get for Christmas. “This is so special.”
Magnolia’s children received toys through the campaign last year also.
“They were so happy,” she said. “They enjoyed it a lot.”
A vehicle or two behind Magnolia, Joel had lined up to pick up the gifts designated for his four children, who range in age from 2 to 10.
“I’m excited for my kids — they’re so happy,” said the Adrian resident, whose children have benefited from the Toys for Tots program for three consecutive years.
Joel said he and his wife could only buy maybe one toy for each kid at Christmas. He appreciates Toys for Tots because his kids can get some extra toys.
Equally as excited as the parents were the volunteers who delivered the Christmas cheer — in the form of concealed toys in plastic bags. Helpers included members of the Buffalo Ridge Young Marines — Destiny Dibbern of Adrian, Marlee Mitchell of Fulda, Sam Sorter of Iona and Samuel Chhin of Sioux Falls, S.D.
Dibbern and Mitchell were kept busy from the start as vehicles formed two lines in front of Max493 and they verified names and found the appropriately labeled bag or bags of gifts.
“They’re all really happy about it,” Mitchell said of the recipients who graciously accepted the toys for their children.
Chhin, who said the Buffalo Ridge Young Marines was the closest chapter for him to join, was excited to be a part of the project. He wants to join the Marines when he grows up, and wanted to be in the Young Marines because his mom had been a member when she was younger.
As for helping with the Toys for Tots campaign, Chhin said, “I feel really grateful for giving to people who can’t afford toys right now.”
Sorter, a first year member of the Young Marines, said it felt good to volunteer and do something good for people across Nobles County
“I love seeing people’s faces and how excited they get when they see how many presents they’re getting,” Sorter said. “Some people get scooters, some people get bikes, some people get sleds — it’s really crazy.”
Dan Harrington, local Toys for Tots campaign coordinator, said this year’s campaign saw the greatest need, with more applicants seeking toys than the past three years combined.
As of Saturday, 915 kids were registered to receive toys. That compares to 160 children in 2019, 171 in 2020 and 429 in 2021.
Harrington speculated that COVID was the reason for the lower numbers in the past. Also, he said they didn’t advertise the income guidelines for recipients, believing that it might prevent some people from asking for help.
The need proved greater than the residents of Nobles County could provide, and just one day before the distribution event, three pallets filled with donations arrived via truck from the Toys for Tots Foundation. The truck was supposed to come in earlier in the week, but weather hampered the delivery.
“(The foundation) monitors the numbers of toys donated and purchased each week,” Harrington said. “They look at those amounts and how many kids are registered, and then they send supplements out.”
The trio of pallets were filled with toys from corporate donors all across the country. Many of the items were STEM-focused educational toys, along with puzzles, some books and Pokemon items.
“They want to make sure that every campaign in the United States has enough toys for each of the kids that registers,” Harrington said of the foundation.
He commended community businesses and individuals who donated, and said this was the first year that businesses approached him and asked what they could do to help the Toys for Tots program.
“It’s amazing when you have the support of businesses,” he said. “That means later on down the road, we won’t have to depend on the foundation to send us toys. Those toys can go to other campaigns that are just starting out.”
All of the toys donated to Nobles County Toys for Tots go to residents of Nobles County, Harrington noted, saying any monetary donations were used to purchase additional toys. On Friday evening, for example, they realized they were short on donated toys for children ages 0 to 2, so they went to Walmart and purchased $800 in toys for that age group.
Aside from individuals and businesses who offered toys and cash, a bank challenge — this year involving six banks in Nobles County — helped to drive donations.
“We collected 840 toys this year from the banks and we got 16 bikes and two electronic scooters,” Harrington said.
Of the six participating banks, the top three will be recognized with plaques and first place also gets a traveling trophy. First place this year goes to Worthington Federal Savings Bank, second to American Bank and Trust, and third place to Bank of the West.
Harrington offered his thanks to those in the community who supported the Toys for Tots campaign, as well as to Solid Rock Assembly, for offering the use of Max 493 as a staging area for Saturday’s distribution event.