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Toys for Tots anticipates high demand this season

Toys for Tots is a nationally known decades-old program that provides holiday gifts for needy children.

This year is the first time that Toys for Tots has officially served Washington County families.

“Last year, we worked with Johnson County unofficially,” said Barb Millward, local Toys for Tots coordinator. “Every order from Washington County was filled.”

“This is the first year we’ve worked officially with them.”

Last year, the program provided about 6,500 gifts to approximately 2,300 children in Johnson and Washington counties.

“I think the demand this year is bigger because of COVID,” Millward said.

Coordinating the program involves collecting donations as well as building a list of children who need gifts.

Donation boxes have been set up around the county to collect unwrapped toys.

Those locations are:

• Ace N More, Washington.

• Orscheln Farm & Home, Washington.

• CBI Bank & Trust, Washington.

• Federation Bank, Washington.

• Latta Harris, Washington.

• Mid-Prairie Middle School, Kalona.

• Romero’s Barbershop, Columbus Junction.

Millward said that the program serves children from infant to 15-years-old, so people can keep that in mind when purchasing items to donate.

The program’s website, iowa-city-ia.toysfortots.org, has a list of toy suggestions.

The suggestions include soft toys and push toys for infants, building blocks for toddlers, action figures and Barbie dolls for elementary-aged children, and bicycles and art supplies for older children.

Millward said that books for all ages make great donations.

Anyone wishing to donate items must drop them off at one of the donation locations by the end of the day Monday, Dec. 7.

“Washington County is usually late getting donations in,” Millward said. “We set the deadline because we have lots of toys coming in, and we have to look at each family and their needs.”

Toys for Tots is working with Hawkeye Area Community Action Program (HACAP) to get a list of families needing assistance.

“HACAP has information on which families need some help,” Millward said.

Families wishing to participate can call the Washington County HACAP office at 319-653-7275 to sign up for the program.

They can also sign up at the Toys for Tots website.

The deadline for families to sign up is Friday, Dec. 4.

“If someone calls after that, we’ll do our best to include them,” Millward said.

Toys for Tots also takes monetary donations, which can be made on the website.

“We have the most trouble getting (gift) donations for infants and 15-year-olds,” Millwards said. “We use the monetary donations to fill the needs that we don’t have items for.”

All Fareway stores are helping to collect monetary donations for Toys for Tots.

From Dec. 1-13, customers are encouraged to make a cash donation to the “Santa Express,” and a paper train will be posted in the store window with the donor’s name.

Once the toys are collected, they will be transported to Iowa City, where coordinators will help match the toys to the list of participating children.

“Every child gets a stocking stuffer and a book,” Millward said. “Each family gets a family game.”

Distribution is coordinated through HACAP, Millward said.

“Once everything is sorted, HACAP will contact the families to get them their gifts,” she said.

Distribution will be Dec. 17 and 18.