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Vets toy drive running short

Unwrapped toys needed for area kids

News photo by Crystal Nelson Cindy Hartwick, longtime Toys for Kids volunteer and Associates of Vietnam Veterans of America member, and Tammy Kish, program coordinator and fundraiser for Operation Holidays, wrap presents for Toys for Kids on Monday at the Thunder Bay Shopping Center, 2005 U.S.-23.

ALPENA — Toys for Kids plans to wrap and deliver Christmas gifts for 2,800 children this year, but, so far, only one quarter of the donations have come in.

Toys for Kids is part of the Vietnam Veterans Chapter 583 Operation Holidays program, which strives to bring holiday cheer to families who are struggling financially in Alpena, Alcona, Montmorency, and Presque Isle counties. The program relies on donations from the community to be successful.

Tammy Kish, coordinator and fundraiser for Operation Holidays, said the organization still needs donations for children from birth to 17.

However, Kish said the program is particularly lacking in toys to give 8- to 17-year-old boys and girls.

“We can always use games, arts and crafts, books, coloring books and crayons, puzzles, hats and gloves and scarves,” she said, noting they do have plenty of stuffed animals this year.

New and unwrapped toys or cash donations can be dropped off through Dec. 20 at the group’s collection site in the Thunder Bay Shopping Center, 2005 U.S.-23, next to Neiman’s Family Market.

Kish said people have until Dec.16 to sign up or nominate children to receive Christmas gifts through the program.

Each child receives one large, one medium, and one small gift, plus add-ons such as stocking-stuffers, games or hats, gloves and scarves.

Gift-wrapping will begin on Dec. 3. Those interested in volunteering to wrap gifts can stop in from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on weekdays and from 6 to 11 p.m. on weekends. Kish said volunteers will deliver toys over two weekends, Dec. 14 and 15 and Dec. 21 and 22.

Kish said that, while the program gave gifts to more than 900 families last year, officials struggled to collect enough donations. She said the final donations came in toward the end, which ended up being really close to Christmas.

If they don’t receive enough donations, they will have to cut families from the list, Kish said, and that no one wants that to happen. The Toys for Kids motto is “leave no child behind,” and Kish is hopeful the community will come through once again.

“We couldn’t do this if we didn’t have a fabulous, wonderful, caring, and giving community, because it’s our community that makes this program work,” she said. “Everything that we take in, 100% of it goes back into the community.”

Contact Kish at 989-464-5588 for more information on the Toys for Kids program. Contact Judy Trapp, secretary for the Associates of Vietnam Veterans of America, at 989-358-9085 to nominate a family to receive gifts.

Crystal Nelson can be reached at 989-358-5687 or cnelson@thealpenanews.com.