Non-Profit Economy Part 2: Toys for Tots 

Over the last few holiday seasons, more parents have needed help to make sure there’s a present under the tree with their child’s name on it. Some of those parents turn to Toys for Tots for help. When you drop off a toy in a box marked Toys for Tots, your charitable act is done. For Skip and Amber Young, co-coordinators at the Greater Bangor Area Toys for Tots, that’s just the first step.”We go around about once a week and we check all the boxes and once we empty out the boxes, we put the box back and then we bring everything here,” explained Skip.What looks like Santa’s workshop is where all of this non-profit’s toys are stored, sorted and assigned. The toys are put on different tables, organized by gender and age. Then, the folks at Toys for Tots wait for the requests to come in.”Once the request comes in then the real work starts and depending on how many children they have, depends on how long it takes to fill that order,” said Skip.It’s a Christmas list of sorts detailing each child’s name, age, interests, and what they’d like for Christmas.”Is your little guy a Tonka Truck guy or is he a Matchbox guy? There’s a world of difference come Christmas morning and we want that sparkle in that child’s eye so we want to match up that toy if possible,” said Amber.Over the years, where the lists come from has changed. Toys for Tots used to work on them independently, but now those lists are a team effort. The Youngs realized if a family needs help with toys, they probably need help elsewhere too. “People are hurting all over and that’s why we try to make things easier for them,” said Skip.To make it easier, they’ve partnered with other organizations to make Christmas feel complete.”Christmas is not just toys, it’s that whole warm feeling of a hot meal, it is family, it is love,” said Amber.”We work in conjunction with Salvation Army, Seacoast Ministries, Penquis CAP out in Dover, the Hands of Hope so we’re just like a big unit now,” said Skip.Because, according to Skip, the need for help continues to grow.”Every year it gets more and more. Our first year we did 3,600, the second year we did a little over 4,000 and we’re up to 8,000 kids now. 20,000 toys are collected, so I’m assuming that we’re probably going to need a lot more as time goes on,” said Skip.Keeping up with the need isn’t always easy, especially in tough economic times. The budget Toys for Tots has to work with is whatever is donated to them.”We used to get that $1,000 donation or $2,500 donation. That doesn’t happen anymore. We’re counting nickels and dimes all the time,” said Amber.But every year, thanks to the generosity of others, they make it happen. Something about the spirit of Christmas and helping children keeps the toys coming in.”Every child needs Christmas. I don’t care how old you are really. Every child really expects to see Santa and they really want that toy and people really try to do that for them,” said Skip.”If you open that present Christmas morning and it’s exactly what you asked for, you feel like, ‘Man, my parents may be poor but they loved me enough to make it happen,'” said Amber.It’s that feeling thousands of times over that keeps folks donating toys and the Christmas spirit alive for the Youngs all year long.Toys for Tots donation boxes can be found throughout the Bangor area including locations at Toys ‘R Us, Family Dollar stores, and the Bangor mall.