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Area collections abound for toys for less fortunate

Posted: November 18, 2013 - 7:25pm  |  Updated: November 18, 2013 - 7:41pm

Area stores have started playing Christmas music and cities have begun hanging decorations. The season for giving has arrived and area groups are collecting items to make the holiday season brighter.

Johna Beech, with Toys for Tots Kenai Peninsula, said the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Program collects new, unwrapped toys and distributes them as Christmas gifts to children in need in the community. Drop locations are located in Kenai, Soldotna and Homer chambers and businesses.

“Our mission is to be able to help out local families,” Beech said. “All toys collected locally stay local.”

Beech said Toy for Tots partners with The Salvation Army to get the items to children in the community. This is the fifth year the program has served the Kenai Peninsula.

The primary goal is also to deliver, through new toys at Christmas, a message of hope to less fortunate youngsters that will assist them in becoming responsible, productive and patriotic citizens.

Beech said the toy drive started Oct. 1 and will run through Dec. 7. Community members can help by dropping off unwrapped packaged toys at peninsula drop off locations or drop cash donations off at the Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center. Donations of clothing or stuffed animals cannot be accepted.

While buying cute dolls and toy trucks is always fun, Beech said the group usually forgotten this time of year are preteens and teens, ages 12 to 17.

“People tend to buy for younger kids,” she said.

She said for those looking to buy for the older kids, appropriately rated movies, books and board games are always a hit.

For those wanting to give more expensive gifts, such as electronics, Beech asked that they be dropped off to her at Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center for safe keeping.

There are two upcoming events planned to raise cash, for people who want to help and have fun

Beech said on Nov. 30, there will be two events to help raised funds for the program. There will be a toy toss at 6 p.m. the Kenai River Brown Bears Hockey games at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex. Participants will purchase raffle tickets attached to stuffed animals, which will then be tossed into a Humvee driven on the ice. People who toss the animals into the vehicle successfully will win a prize.

Later that evening, another fundraising event will take place at 9 p.m. at The Duck Inn. The event is for adults 21 and older and will include games such as Shots for Tots and more.

Beech said the two events each generally raise $1,000 or more and are great community events.

“Both are focused on raising strictly cash,” she said.

After all funds are raised, and items are collected, Toys for Tots Kenai Peninsula purchases the additional items with the monetary donations and all gifts are delivered to The Salvation Army for distribution by Dec. 13.

Donation request forms can be found on the Toys for Tots Kenai Peninsula website or available at The Salvation Army.

Another way to give at Christmas time is through Operation Christmas Child, a program through Samaritan’s Purse International Relief Organization.

Mary Jane Mills, office manager for Soldotna’s Samaritan’s Purse, said this week is National Collection Week for Operation Christmas Child. The organization delivers filled shoes boxes to children, aged 2 to 14, to 104 countries all over the world, throughout the year.

Participants fill shoeboxes, either their own or special boxes at the processing facility, with items such as toothbrushes, toys, socks, school supplies, flashlights, yo-yos and hard candy.

“This is the week we focus on collecting filled shoeboxes,” Mills said.

Mills, like Beech, said that the younger children seem to be the focus, and that those aged 10 to 14 also benefit. Since many of the boxes are the first gifts many children receive, Mills said adding a stuffed animal in an older child’s box is a good idea.

“If they have never had a stuffed animal, that is pretty significant to them,” she said. “It gives them something to cuddle.”

Another item Mills encouraged participants to include is a note or photo, just as a reminder of who is sending the box.

“Then they really connect that someone far away sent this gift,” she said. “That impacts them so much.”

She said the boxes will leave Anchorage on Monday and be sent to the processing facility in Santa Anna, Calif. From there, sites for gift delivery include Indonesia and the Philippines.

“If anybody wants to bring in a box they need to have it to me by the morning of (Nov. )25,” she said.

For those wanting to track where their gift goes, Mills said for an added donation of $7 online, donors can print out a barcode sticker that is linked to their email address when the package arrives.

“It is after the fact but at least they will have an idea where it goes,” she said.

Operation Christmas Child has received approximately 2,000 shoeboxes per year since it began in 1995. Statewide, Samaritan’s Purse receives 14,000 filled shoeboxes annually.

“It grows every year,” she said.


Kenai Peninsula Toys for Tots

2013 Drop Locations:

Kenai

• Aspen Extended Stay Suites

• First National Bank Alaska

• Homer Electric Association

• Kenai Visitor and Cultural Center

• Peninsula Clarion

• Spenard Builders Supply

• Stanley Ford

Soldotna

• Aspen Hotel

• Central Peninsula Hospital

• First National Bank Alaska

• Hey Good Lookin’

• Hobbies, Crafts and Games

• Jumpin Junction

• Kenai Peninsula College

• K Beach Elementary

• Liz’s Card and Gifts

• Lynden Transport

• Midas

• Spenard Builders Supply

• Soldotna Chamber

• Stanley Chrysler

Homer

• Homer Chamber of Commerce

• First National Bank Alaska

• Spenard Builders Supply

Drop location for Operation

Christmas Child:

• 565 Funny River Road at the Soldotna

Airport

 

Sara J. Hardan can be reached at sara.hardan@peninsulaclarion.com

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