EATON — The Preble County Christmas for Kids project provides toys for families during the holiday season. This year, the program provided toys for 271 families, which included 745 children.
Christmas for Kids is a program aimed to assist Preble County families in poverty with providing toys for their children on Christmas morning.
Previously, families would register on a single day at a specified location. The committee found that many families had a hard time getting transportation or were working. This year, they opened registration for the entire month of November at various locations.
According to United Way Director Alexa Joyce, the change came because many families were calling after the registration date with need. They changed the registration system to make Christmas for Kids more accessible for different families.
“A lot of our families were very thankful for that. It made it much easier for them. It was one less hoop they had to jump through. It resulted in a higher amount of children registered, so I think we captured the ones that we missed in years passed,” Joyce said.
“Everyone loves to be a part of this program, whether it is donating a toy, or volunteering their time, or being on the receiving end. I think it is a good way to bring our community together in the holiday spirit. It is a fun way to give to your community.”
Last year, the program served approximately 600 children. Joyce believes the increase was due to the change in registration.
The program serves children ages 0-17. This year, the biggest age group was the boys aged 7-9, with 92 kids receiving toys. Typically, ages 4-6 have been the largest age group the program serves.
After toys are donated from various community partners, it is time to sort and distribute the toys. The committee gathers volunteers for three sorting days and one distribution day.
On the sorting days, volunteers come to collect donated toys and sort them into the different age groups. On the distribution day, families are given the opportunity to shop for their kids and choose what toys they would like most. Some age groups are even allowed more than one toy, depending on how many toys were donated for that age.
This year, there were approximately 40 volunteers who helped with sorting days and 25 volunteers for distribution day. Some of them come once or twice, while a lot of volunteers stay for the entire four days.
According to Joyce, Parker Hannifin provided many volunteers for sorting days, while Preble County Board of Developmental Disabilities is a huge help on distribution day.
Volunteers and toy donors come from all over in the community.
There are many companies who donate gifts. The biggest donors this year included: Silfex, Henny Penny, Parker Hannifin, Community of Faith Church, and the Register-Herald Kids for Kids program.
The program needs all donations, big and small. Some organizations donate 10 toys and some donate 200. There are many churches, banks, small businesses, restaurants, and other organizations who donate toys for Christmas for Kids.
The different Preble County FFA Chapters have donated wrapping paper this year, so families can wrap their toys when they get home. The Retired School Teachers donate many books for the program as well.
“There is no way we could do this without volunteers. At United Way, I facilitate everything, but I am one person in Preble County, so there is no way I could do it without help. I have my core group, and those are the girls who are meeting with me and helping me plan out the fine details,” Joyce said.
“Our volunteers, we get thousands of toys donated and there is no way that core group of us could do it alone. Our volunteers are the only way it happens. No one has a budget for this in their programs, so this is all 100 percent donations from our community.”
Toy donations are up this year. Joyce will send out tags to the different businesses with age groups listed on them, that way the volunteers have an easier time sorting toys. This year, she originally sent out 1,300 tags, but had to create 500 more. Most of those tags will come back attached to gifts.
“I want to say a very sincere thank you from everyone on my team. I am always very humbled by the way our community rallies together, so these children — regardless of what their situations are – get to wake up and have a Merry Christmas. It is about the kids and it is always very nice to see our community come together for that,” Joyce said.
“If anyone wants to get involved in years to come, anyone is welcome on our core team, just get a hold of me. If you are a business who has never had tags before, call me at the Preble County United Way office and I will get you on our list. If you are looking for volunteer opportunities, we can always use more.”
Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler_RH