Volunteers with the local Toys for Tots program prepare wrapped gifts for delivery last year. The Pilot/Jef Hatch
In four days, Delma Olsen has wrapped more than 200 toys. She wraps four to seven hours a day, five or six days a week. This is her sixth year.
“I get where I can wrap in my sleep,” Olsen said. “I just feel so good to be able to get them done and getting them done in time. I always feel like I’ve accomplished something.”
Olsen continues to wrap day after day, year after year because she also enjoys making children happy – “knowing that I was part of them being able to have a Christmas.”
Olsen is a volunteer for the local Toys for Tots program, one of many local organizations that will dedicate countless hours to ensure that local residents have a Merry Christmas – whether it be through toy drives, food baskets or coat collections – because they firmly believe that everyone’s holiday wish should come true.
Toys for Tots is a nationwide toy drive that was started in 1947 in Los Angeles. Today, it is the Marine Corps’ premier community action program with more than 15 million toys distributed across the country during the past 10 years.
The local program, which serves Curry and Del Norte counties, already is busy sorting, wrapping and collecting toys.
“Most of the toys here are from the (national) foundation,” said Bill Cochran, coordinator for the program for Curry and Del Norte counties. “We need toys.”
Last year, the local branch provided 3,808 toys to 1,904 children; 300 to 400 from Brookings alone.
“Without us, there wouldn’t be a Christmas for a goodly portion of these children,” Cochran said. “You have no idea until you get out there delivering what the conditions are. It’s sad.”
New and unwrapped toys for children ages 6 to 17 can be dropped off in Toys for Tots boxes at Fred Meyer, Chetco Pharmacy and Gifts, Grocery Outlet, the Elks Lodge and Art Alley Grille and Snug Cafe.
Donations can be made out to Toys for Tots and mailed to W.H. Cochran, 00161 Winchuck River Rd., Brookings, OR 97415.
“Any place you see those white boxes we are sadly needing toys,” Cochran said.
This year, the organization has already spent $7,000 on toys; it typically spends $8,000 to $10,000.
“We try to average it so that every child gets two reasonable toys plus a stuffer,” Cochran said. “We don’t like to miss.”
All of the applications haven’t been received yet, but Cochran anticipates the foundation will receive at least as many requests as last year.
“It’s just worth it,” volunteer Donna Van Nest said. “It’s for the kids. It’s all about the kids.
About 122 families in Brookings-Harbor need a little help to make Christmas happen this year.
They have written down what their children would like or need for Christmas on tags that are available for citizen Santas at local businesses such as banks, credit unions, ShopSmart and Chetco Pharmacy and Gifts to purchase a gift for a child. There are more than 365 tags this year, Curry County Coordinator Cindy Davis said.
“We’ve got a lot out there,” Davis said. “With the economy the way it’s been, a lot of people have been out of jobs and can’t find jobs right now, and a lot of people’s unemployment has run out. They have to pay for their rent and utilities. I think we’ve had a lot more people this year.”
All of the tags are a part of “Giving Tree,” a program sponsored by Community Action that makes Christmas possible for families struggling to make ends meet. In Brookings-Harbor, the program has been active for more than 25 years.
“We couldn’t do it if the community didn’t participate,” Davis said.
Information such as age, sex , clothing or shoe sizes and gift suggestions are included on the tags as well.
Gifts can be returned to Community Action’s office, located at 97829 Shopping Center Ave., or put under the tree from which the tag was picked up. Presents will be collected and dispersed to families Dec. 17.
Popular requests this year include baby dolls, trucks, winter clothes and rubber boots, Davis said.
If people prefer, they can donate cash.
“With the tags that don’t get chosen, we use that money for purchasing gifts,” Davis said. “We try to make sure that everybody that signs up gets something. It’s getting harder and harder to do, but we’re going to keep trying.
“When we’re dispersing the presents, the gifts, we see how much it means to the parents. … They just appreciate it so much, and a lot of times they’ll say ‘This is the only thing my child’s going to get.’ They tear up, we tear up. It gives you the incentive to do it again.
“There’s just so many kids out there that aren’t going to get anything, and it’s hard when they go back to school and people say ‘Oh what did you get,’ or people are talking about the wonderful gifts that you got, and you didn’t get anything. It kind of alleviates some of that for them to get something.
“Every kid should be able to open a gift on Christmas.”
For more information, please call Davis at 541-469-3155.
Elks’ Christmas baskets
The Elks Lodge #1934 will sponsor the distribution of 350 to 400 Christmas baskets this year, according to organizer Dave Kitchen.
They will be filled with all the fixings – turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy and pudding – “everything you need for a full Christmas dinner,” Kitchen said.
But the Elks is in need of food – instant mashed potatoes, instant gravy, instant pudding, canned goods in the form of green beans, peas, corn and yams and cans of cranberry sauce — to be specific.
“It’s all a community-based fundraiser, sponsorship that we depend on to pay for the food,” Kitchen said.
It’s done “to help out people who need,” Kitchen added. “The Elks is nationally known to be a very community-oriented organization, and we do a lot of stuff like this.”
Donations can be dropped off at the Elks, 800 Elk Dr., or put in one of the Elks’ baskets at the grocery stores in town.
The Elks gets its list of names from organizations such as Oregon Community Action, Oasis Shelter Home and Smith River Rancheria, but if people are in need of food, they should contact the Elks to have their name added.
The deadline to request a basket is Dec. 14. Baskets will be delivered Dec. 22.
As of Thursday, the Elks had 280 names.
“We need more people to come in and ask for this type of help,” Kitchen said.
For more information, please call the Elks at 541-469-3123.