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Toys for Tots keeps it local

Toy drive organizers get ready to help load up the sleigh

Posted: December 19, 2011 - 9:35am  |  Updated: December 19, 2011 - 9:37am

Marine Sgt. Boyd Jorgensen went on a shopping spree this weekend.

Sunday marked the annual toy-buy organized by the Kenai Peninsula Toys for Tots program, putting to use cash donations that have been collected since Nov. 1.

"I go and spend all the money collected to local businesses around here and buy toys," said Jorgensen, the program's coordinator, on Friday.

Jorgensen said he will split up the cash donations between the volunteers and they will "pick a direction" and have an emphasis on buying local.

"We'll stop by local business as we can, if they have toys, we'll buy 'em," Jorgensen said.

One of these volunteers is Cassandra Winslow. This is the second year she has participated in the program, and it's something that's close to her heart.

"It's for a good cause," she said. "The toys all stay here on the Peninsula, they don't get shipped out to Anchorage or out of state or anything like that."

For Winslow, seeing the community come together to provide for those less fortunate is what keeps her coming back.

"The kids get toys that they wouldn't get if we didn't do this," she said. "It just makes me happy to see other people to want to share during this time of year."

The Toys for Tots program has two ways for the community to contribute: cash donations and toy donations -- with collection boxes located at businesses around the central Peninsula. Jorgensen estimates the program has received between 200-300 toys as of Friday, which is behind where the program was a year ago.

"This time last year we were sitting on about 800," Jorgensen said.
However, Jorgensen said the toy-buy and collecting the toys from donation bins will allow this year's number to get close to last year's.

"We should be able to bring that number up significantly," Jorgensen said. "So we should at least get close to where we were last year."
The reason for the drop-off is because the program started Nov. 1 this year, which was a month behind last year's Oct. 1 start date.

The program has also received just under $1,000 in cash donations as of  Friday -- which is less than the $3,000 the program had last year at this time. However, over the weekend there were two fundraisers -- a teddy bear toss at the Kenai River Brown Bears game Saturday followed by a fundraiser at the Duck Inn.

"I'm confident with the two events we have going on (Saturday) we can come close to that ($3,000)," Jorgensen said.

Toy donations will be accepted until Tuesday, but cash donations will be accepted until the end of the year. If the cash comes in after Christmas, it will be used for next year's program, Jorgensen said.

When asked about the feeling he gets to be able to provide toys to kids who may not have a Christmas otherwise, Jorgensen deflected any credit.

"It actually makes me pretty proud of the community," he said. "Toys for Tots doesn't belong to any specific person or any specific group -- no one person or group could get it done, it's truly a community effort."

Jorgensen gives credit elsewhere as to why the program is able to exist year-afer-year.

"It it weren't for the business partners and if it weren't for the donations that we get every year then it wouldn't be possible."

Jorgensen is confident in this year's campaign despite the late start.
"I would just like to thank the community for their support this year -- the outlook is good." he said.

Logan Tuttle can be reached at logan.tuttle@peninsulaclarion.com.

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