Charitable programs seek toys, monetary donations for holiday

Thursday, December 20, 2007 | 8:41 p.m. CST; updated 8:21 a.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008

COLUMBIA — Some parents’ biggest wish on Christmas Day is to watch their children holding their breath as they open their gifts then scream with joy at the presents they received.

But some families can’t afford this seasonal pleasure.

The 2000 census showed that 1,658 families live below the poverty level in Columbia. Some governmental programs and public charities, however, are trying to help these families. They accept new toys, used toys and cash donations to send to needy families.

The Columbia Parks and Recreation Department, in conjunction with the Neighborhood Resource Center, runs the annual Toys for Columbia’s Youth drive. In 2006, more than 225 children were served by the program; each received at least three toys. This year, 230 children will receive at least one toy, Parks and Recreation spokeswoman Tammy Miller said.

Toy donations to the Parks and Recreation Department ended on Wednesday, but it still is accepting monetary donations in the form of cash, check or credit card at its office in the Gentry Building, 1 S. Seventh St. Donors will receive letters of acknowledgement for tax purposes. The donations will be used to buy more toys.

While the news is good at Parks and Rec, the U.S Marine Corps Reserve’s Toys for Tots Program, supported by the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation, remains short of toys and is still collecting gifts for children in the Columbia area.

Toys for Tots is a nationwide, not-for-profit program whose goal is to deliver Christmas gifts and joy to children from low-income, welfare-receiving and unemployed families throughout the United States. The Columbia office cooperates with Division of Family Services, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, the Salvation Army, Columbia Square Apartments and the Voluntary Action Center. Those agencies refer children who qualify to the Toys for Tots program.

Marine Corps veteran Dannie Weddle, who coordinates the program for the Columbia area, said that the program has put 2,000 toys into children’s hands this year but that another 1,500 children are in need of Christmas gifts. Anyone who would like to donate can drop off toys at the post office at Fifth and Walnut streets. Donations can be mailed to the Toys for Tots Program, P.O Box 30534, Columbia, MO 65205.

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