Brown County Toys for Kids is gearing up for another Christmas and is now accepting applications for help as well as donations for its annual giveaway.
    Toys for Kids is a nonprofit organization that donates Chrismas presents to Brown County children in need. It donates thousands of presents to hundreds of local families each year, and last year the organization helped 554 families.
    Wanda Martin co-founded Brown County Toys for Kids with her late husband Dennis in 1991, and now runs the Grand Starz event center where the toy distribution takes place. Martin said that Grand Starz was an ideal venue for the event and a major improvement from the days when she held Toys for Kids in a different location each year.
    “I bought this in ’06,” she said, “so now we have a warehouse and we’re just so glad. It makes life so much easier. We have a place to sign up, we have a place to give it away, we get to work all year and we get to shop all year instead of at the last minute.”
    Martin explained how the Toys for Kids program works. “We have the participants come in if they need help,” she said. “They come in here and sign up … and we will give them an assigned time to come back on the distribution day, which is going to be Dec. 17.”
    Martin said the distribution day was always very busy. “The parents are the ones that are going to come back and get the toys,” she said. “We start at 7 in the morning and we work until 5 or 5:30 in the evening.”
    Parents will sign in at their assigned time and be guided by a volunteer through the storage warehouse, where they can pick out toys for their children. Martin said the organization is still looking for volunteers for distribution day, and will need about 200 total. Volunteers can sign up for specific time slots, preferably at least two or three hours in length.
    “It is an amazing day,” Martin said. “Not only for the people, but for the volunteers, too.”
    Brown County Toys for Kids accepts both toy and monetary donations, but Martin said the group ends up purchasing about 85 percent of the toys itself. She said with the ability to shop year-round, the nonprofit was able to find the best deals and sales on toys.
    “We go to Dallas, we go to San Antonio, we buy here. I have to buy on sale, or discounted,” Martin said. “We’re tax exempt, so we use our money wisely.”
    Martin said the group purchased presents for children of all ages up through high school, though, as a toy drive, it had more to offer younger kids. She said the Brownwood community could help by volunteering and donating, and that businesses could sign up to be drop-off locations or help with Two-Stepping for Toys. Two-Stepping for Toys is an annual fundraiser thrown by KOXE and Wendlee Broadcasting before the distribution day. This year’s Two-Stepping for Toys will be on Dec. 14.
    Anyone needing assistance for Christmas can stop by Grand Starz from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Monday or Tuesday through Nov. 23. After Thanksgiving, Toys for Kids will begin accepting applications at the same hours Monday through Friday. Applicants need a photo ID for themselves and a Social Security card for each child recipient.
    Donations can be mailed or delivered to Grand Starz at 2323 Belle Plain in Brownwood. Its phone number is 325-646-6822.