ALPENA -After an exceptionally expensive Thanksgiving holiday and several weeks of slow fundraising, the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 583 is desperate for donations for its "Toys for Kids" charity, with over 1,500 children to serve and only a fraction of the resources necessary to do it.
The chapter's "Feed a Family" Thanksgiving charity cost over $3,000 more than last year's, and though the chapter had stored about $1,500 cash for "Toys for Kids" as of Dec. 1, the figure is not on pace with this year's rise in the number of registered families. With 10 days to go until the registration deadline, volunteers expect the number of children registered for the program to exceed 2,000. Staff member Tammy Kish guessed that "Toys for Kids" costs the chapter about $100,000 a year for Alpena, Alcona, Montmorency, and Presque Isle counties altogether, and the current inventory of money and presents is not enough to meet the need or even keep the dozens of present-wrapping volunteers busy.
"I have about 40 coming into wrap on Monday, Tuesday I have about 60 coming in to wrap. I don't want to have to call them back and say, 'Listen, we don't have anything to wrap,' you know? As it is right now, we're so far behind, if we do start wrapping on Monday, we have to wrap 140-150 kids a day to be able to make it by Christmas," she said, adding they will accept toy donations right up until Christmas. "If we have to deliver on Christmas Eve, we'll be out delivering on Christmas Eve."
Each child gets one small, medium, and large toy, plus stocking stuffers, crayons, and books. Kish said the number of children the program can serve generally depends on how many large toys the chapter receives, which are generally in short supply.
"With what we have right now, I would say, if I count the large toys ... (we can serve) about 20. It's about $50-60 per child that they get," she said. "Even our books are down this year ... We see a lot from the book stores, but (most) book stores have gone out of Alpena now."
Thunder Bowl Lanes in Alpena will host a "Toys for Kids" bowling fundraiser on Saturday from 12-5 p.m., and Northern Lights Arena will host a kids skate session from 4-5:50 p.m. Sunday. For more information, or to make a donation, contact the chapter office at 356-6927.
Andrew Westrope can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5693.