COLUMBIA — Columbia Parks and Recreation is accepting donations of money and new or used toys for the annual Holiday Toys for Columbia's Youth drive.
In 2011, Columbia Parks and Recreation reported serving more than 300 children. Last year, 237 families with one to three children were helped, recreation specialist Bill Thompson said.
Gently used or new toys can be dropped off unwrapped in marked boxes at:
- the Armory Sports Center, 701 E. Ash St.
- Parks and Recreation office, 1 S. Seventh St.
- Activity and Recreation Center, 1701 W. Ash St.
- Columbia Regional Airport, 11300 S. Airport Drive
- The information desk, utility customer service, public works and finance divisions of the Daniel Boone City Building, 701 E. Broadway
- The Target wing of the Columbia Mall, 2300 Bernadette Drive
Monetary donations are accepted at:
- The information desk at the Daniel Boone City Building
- The Assessment Resource Center, located in the Academic Resource Center at MU
- The Parks and Recreation Office
Donors who wish to receive a letter of acknowledgement for their donation should donate at the Parks and Recreation Office.
This year, program coordinator Mary Dewey estimates that more than 300 low-income families will benefit from the drive. Dewey said each child receives about three to four gifts; the exact number depends on the number of donations and the number of children in need.
"We try to give each child two to three new toys and then if there's a nice used toy we will add that in, too," Thompson said.
The toys they receive are usually for kids under 12.
"We separate the toys so that they are age appropriate and then bag them together for families to pick up and wrap themselves," Dewey said.
The Holiday Toys for Columbia's Youth program allows sign-ups for recipients through Dec. 10, Thompson said. To qualify, applicants must provide a pay stub, Medicaid card or other proof of income below the national poverty level.
"The program has grown considerably over the years because the need has magnified," Thompson said. "We have the latest cutoff date to try to help families that missed the earlier deadlines."
The Salvation Army, Voluntary Action Center and Columbia Parks and Recreation office share lists of participating families to make sure there are no repeats so the donations can reach as many needy families as possible.
"The Voluntary Action Center sometimes gives food, too, and the Salvation Army will sometimes give food and clothing, but we just provide toys," Thompson said.
Columbia Parks and Recreation started the program more than 30 years ago in response to toy drives funneling toys out of Columbia rather than supporting local families, according to Thompson.
Monetary and toy donations will be accepted until Dec. 13.