Mid-Ohio Valley Toys for Tots wraps up another successful year – Parkersburg News

Dec 20, 2021
Volunteer Matt George hands out bags as families pull up to receive the donation at their scheduled time. (Photo by Madeline Scarborough)
PARKERSBURG — For Christmas 2021, the Mid-Ohio Valley Toys for Tots program was able to help over 5,800 children on both sides of the Ohio River have a spectacular Christmas.
“The Mid-Ohio Valley has been very giving to those less fortunate and has made what could be a tremendous shortfall into yet another successful campaign,” said Cliff Hecker, coordinator of Mid-Ohio Valley Toys for Tots.
Hecker said Toys for Tots covers families in four counties in both West Virginia and Ohio.
Hecker said that the area is still seeing impacts of the pandemic, and that he his proud that those who can have continued to step up and help, whether it was with volunteer work, donations or helping to spread the word.
“The volunteers that work seemingly endless hours thoroughly enjoy bringing the gift of hope, that someone cares, to those in need here in the Mid-Ohio Valley. From fundraising, standing in the cold and rain doing live toy drives to the final outcome of 16-18 hour days during the final distribution, these folks work tirelessly just to make sure that we live up to our motto of ‘Every Child Deserves A Little Christmas,’” he said.
Collection boxes were hauled into the warehouse Friday and sorted through. They had boxes for things like age appropriate toys, stocking stuffers, crafts, books and games. (Photos Provided)
Toys for Tots operates solely on volunteers. The entire program depends on people volunteering and donating.
“The volunteers really make a difference, we are thankful,” said Hecker.
This year, Toys for Tots had multiple national sponsors: Ollie’s Bargain Outlet, 5 Below, FedEx and Frito-Lay.
Hecker said he was glad to see student volunteers back since restrictions made it hard for school organized volunteer groups to work in the community last year.
Although the pandemic restrictions being lifted helped alleviate some of the struggle, this season was not without a few bumps in the road.
Volunteer Kathy Lanham delivers a bag she just packed with goods. The bags are sorted by gender and age. (Photo by Madeline Scarborough)
“There was actually an accident, where someone behind our train was rear-ended and their car was pushed into us,” said Hecker.
He explained that thankfully there were no injuries, however the two cars were totaled and the train was in need of repairs.
“Alan Kent (owner of Kent Welding) went above and beyond this year, having our train fixed up by 3 p.m. the next day at no charge,” said Hecker.
Kent is also the owner of the Toys for Tots warehouse in Mineral Wells.
Kent explained that the warehouse had been sitting empty for over two years before Toys for Tots came along to utilize it and he was glad it could be used to help the community.
Collection boxes were hauled into the warehouse Friday and sorted through. They had boxes for things like age appropriate toys, stocking stuffers, crafts, books and games. (Photos Provided)
“I am absolutely blown away by how much these volunteers do each season,” said Kent.
Kent said until a few years ago, he had absolutely no idea how much the local Toys for Tots volunteers did.
“This is not a two weeks before Christmas gig, this is a full time and year round job to make sure everyone can have a wonderful holiday season,” he said.
Before their partnership with Kent, the Toys for Tots volunteers had to haul donations one place for storage, then somewhere different for distribution.
“Since everything is now in one spot, we can sort donations ahead of time,” said Hecker. “It has really cut down on the extra steps and helped us keep to a good schedule.”
Collection boxes were hauled into the warehouse Friday and sorted through. They had boxes for things like age appropriate toys, stocking stuffers, crafts, books and games. (Photos Provided)
Throughout the year, Hecker said the organization fundraises so that they can fill gaps come Christmas.
“Normally teen boys and girls are lacking, however this year they had plenty and it was great to see that improvement,” he said.
However, Hecker said that 7-9 boys and girls were lacking this year.
“We went out Saturday night and spent $13,000 to fill in that gap,” he said.
Those funds come from donations and fundraisers throughout the year.
Collection boxes were hauled into the warehouse Friday and sorted through. They had boxes for things like age appropriate toys, stocking stuffers, crafts, books and games. (Photos Provided)
“We hold bingos, benefit rides and are very fortunate to have a great community assistance,” he said.
Community assistance like the Ohio Valley Speedway who donate their portion of 50/50 to Toys for Tots each week.
Hecker said working with Toys for Tots has really changed his perspective on Christmas, making it more about how he can give and help others, and he hopes other volunteers share this gained perspective.
“I have been with Toys for Tots 27 years now,” said Hecker. “My first year it was really only me and a few others. We reached 26 kids and thought we were doing something, making a real difference,” he said.
“Fast forward to our second year and we reached 84 kids, and I thought we were making a difference then. That number has continued to grow and now here we are 25 years later, able to reach thousands of kids in the Mid-Ohio Valley,” Hecker said.
The number of kids that are reached really depends on those volunteer numbers, Hecker said. He said unfortunately, he does not see the number of children needing to be reached ever going down.
“There are six to eight toys in each bag, not counting stuffed animals, stocking stuffers, crafts, a game and books. We try to make sure there is at least one large and one very good quality toy for each child,” he said.
Toys for Tots looks for items like make-up, hair care items, purses, brushes, DIY kits and bath bombs for the older girls, and cologne, small drones, speakers, sports items, wallets, watches and sports related for the older boys.
“We can’t do video games, but there are many other items especially outdoor ones that will keep teens entertained and not break wallets,” Hecker said.
For babies, items such as large foam puzzles, teething rings, light up and musical toys and large blocks are all great options.
“We are fortunate for the amount of toys and money donations we receive to help provide the area kids a good Christmas,” said Hecker.
They don’t save any toys for next year, anything left over goes to United Way and other church outreach programs to deliver to needy families that were not reached by Toys for Tots.
Madeline Scarborough can be reached at mscarborough@newsandsentinel.com
Today’s breaking news and more in your inbox
Today’s breaking news and more in your inbox

Copyright © News and Sentinel | https://www.newsandsentinel.com | 519 Juliana St., Parkersburg, WV 26101 | 304-485-1891 | Ogden Newspapers | The Nutting Company

source