The annual Toys for Kids program has about the same status as most households this time of year. The list of wants is growing, and the money and goods to fill those wants haven’t quite hit their stride.
A week into the season, Toys for Kids cofounder Wanda Thacker said volunteers have names of more than 260 children to receive Christmas toys this year.
“We expect to have at least 300 more by the time sign-ups are complete,” Thacker said.
The central Toys for Kids headquarters at 2325 Belle Plain has new shelving to take in inventory, but the shelves are pretty bare right now, Thacker said.
“But,” she added, “it’s early in the season. This is our fifth year to have the program and a lot of clubs, schools and organizations have made Toys for Kids a holiday tradition and take up their own collections. The community always comes through. We always make it. I don’t expect this year to be any different.”
Donations can be dropped off between 9.30 a.m. and 4 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday at the headquarters. Red Man Lodge and several other buildings are on the property but the Toys for Kids headquarters has a sign on the front to designate it.
Parents may also sign up for their children to receive toys those hours and those days at the same location. Though no financial need statement is required, parents signing up are asked to bring the child’s Social Security card and their own picture identification.
“Some families may be having a tough time right now, because of a job layoff or a big bill, it’s fine for them to sign up. Maybe next year will be better and they can donate gifts,” Thacker said. “I like to think that’s the way it works.”
Many people prefer making financial donations, Thacker said, and those are certainly needed. Checks and money orders can be mailed to Toys for Kids at P.O. Box 912; Brownwood, TX 76804.
With the financial contributions, Thacker said, she and other volunteers can buy more at some wholesale distributors.
“But we also buy a lot of things locally. We shop the sales, cut coupons and look at how the money can be stretched.
“We need toys for big kids, gifts for older adolescents — but especially gifts for 2 and younger — toddler and baby toys. It’s getting close, but a lot of people are just starting their shopping. All we ask is they remember the kids,” Thacker said.
Parents “shopping” day, when they can pick out the toys for their children will be Dec. 22, at the Toys for Kids headquarters.
Thacker and her husband Dennis founded the Brown County Toys for Kids Christmas gift program in 2002 when Dennis was in remission from cancer. But by 2005 at Christmas time, the cancer had returned and Dennis was in hospice care. Wanda Thacker said the family promised Dennis before he died in February, 2006, that Toys for Kids would continue.
Though a number of volunteers are involved, Thacker said, family members including Dennis’s siblings and relatives; Dennis and Wanda Thacker’s daughters, Stacee Hetzel, Carrie Martinez and Krissi Prince and their families; Wanda Thacker’s mom, Dorothy Alston; and a family friend, Marcie Simmons, who’s been a ready volunteer each of the five years, have formed a “core volunteer staff.”
“The family plans to continue this service for as long as we are able,” Thacker said when the 2006 drive began.
“It means so much to our families, it’s a way we can feel Dennis’s wonderful spirit shining through.”