Warren County Toys for Tots held its first family pick-up on Saturday at the Marine Corps League home.
Students from Tidioute Community Charter School were present to aid the families as they collected the gifts and to help sort those donated by the community.
"We continue to meet the needs of Warren County individuals through the generosity of Warren County residents," said Karen Madigan, coordinating officer for the past five years.
Times Observer photo by Brian Collins
Toys, toys, everywhere
Warren County Toys for Tots Coordinating Officer Karen Madigan, right, instructs students from Tidioute Community Charter School in sorting and bagging gifts for this year’s campaign. This is the first year that TCCS has volunteered for the program and students said they hope to make this a yearly tradition.
"I think it helps us realize (Christmas) isn't just about getting gifts ourselves - it's about giving. We're able to help because we know from experience what kids our age would want," said Aubrey Sonney of TCCS. "It's an eye-opening experience for everyone and we plan on doing this again year after year."
Sign-ups this year covered approximately 700-plus children from over 300 families in the area. "This is not a final count," said Madigan. "We are still continuing to receive calls from people who for some reason or another were unable to make the sign-up dates."
Wanting to provide the same amount of joy to every family in need, Madigan emphasized the strain that can be caused by failing to sign up at the designated times. "It increases the difficulty of trying to manage the program in that we budget our spending based on people who sign up," she said.
If the trends continue, she added, future campaigns by the program may be limited to those who sign up at the designated times listed in the newspaper, advertised on the radio, posted on the local Toys for Tots website, and on posters at the Warren Mall.
Sign-ups are accepted for one week in October and the Friday and Saturday after Thanksgiving at the Warren Mall which provides easy access for those wishing to participate. Individuals are asked to keep in mind the amount of time and organization put into the program by a limited number of volunteers each year.
"Warren County should be very proud to be a part of such a giving community," said Madigan, who has been with the program since it started over 30 years ago.
Though gift donations were down this year, an increase in monetary donations, the honoring of the organization's tax-exempt status by local stores and a generous 10 to 15 percent discount on top of that enabled the local Toys for Tots to maintain its tradition. "Toy donations are encouraged," she said. "They give individuals the personal feeling of joy knowing they've selected a special toy for a child."
In addition to aiding those in need, Toys for Tots also helps families who have been victims of emergency situations, such as house fires.
The newest drop off/collection site was the Sugar Grove Volunteer Fire Department, which expanded the county's reach. Toy collection boxes will be picked up by Dec. 21.
"Many thanks to all our volunteers and the local businesses and individuals who are so generous," said Madigan. "Thank you and Merry Christmas."