Holiday toy drives are complicated beasts, sayeth this veteran of ten plus years of coordinating drives.
On the one hand, donating gifts for children at the holidays seems very much in line with the holidays themselves. It makes sense that kids deserve presents and that sharing our excess is a very holiday-ish thing to do.
On the other hand, what about the other days of the year? And how do we create mechanisms to give that are respectful, dignified and culturally appropriate – mechanisms that meet the needs of the recipients, not the donors?
Even the term “Save Xmas” is fraught with nuance and complications and challenges.
Toys for Tots has been at the heart of holiday toy drives for decades. The Marines run this project and it is a bear – coordinating the needs of hundreds of organizations and thousands of individuals with a minimal budget, limited personnel and probably not a ton of training in social services. It can be amazing and it can fall flat – one year I received several dozen hand-held poker machine games marked 18+ for my younger teen boys. It is a logistics nightmare and I appreciate how hard people work to make it happen.
This year, something went wrong and seven community groups did not receive their requested toys. The way it typically works is that the groups submit the names and ages of the kids sometime in October via fax or email, then receive a notification when it is time to pick up their delivery. They request this information to avoid duplication. The toys are repacked in large boxes by age and gender. It is relatively smooth if not necessarily predictable. I have spent more than one late night driving a giant box truck to pick up donations. It is exhausting and time-consuming and very very hard work.
Something went wrong this year and that needs to be sorted out by the powers-that-be. But in the meantime, hundreds of kids are going to not receive a gift or gifts that their parents were counting upon. And that’s something we can address. Stepping up to the plate are Most Wanted Fine Art (in a sort of reverse Krampus move), I Heart Pittsburgh and more.
Here’s the skinny – multiple folks have been working together since the news broke to collect as many donations as possible NOW.
The Need – 650+ toy and gifts for children ages 2 months to 17 years – NEW, UNWRAPPED toys and gifts please (books, CDs, movies, etc also fine)
The Organizations – 7 different community groups around the region
The Drop-Off Spots:
Most Wanted Fine Art at The Waterfront
210 West Bridge Street next to Panera Bread and Famous Footwear
- Ask your own kids to contribute one new toy to help these other children.
- Share this with your coworkers. Pass the hat if possible and fair.
- Send an email to people who you know. Ask them to bring toys to your house and you can deliver to the Waterfront or Garfield tomorrow.
- Gifts for older kids are often the hardest to solicit. Ask your own teen to consider shopping for something with you.
- Gift cards can be great, but it is important to hand them directly to a person when you make a donation so they don’t get lost in the shuffle.
These holiday programs build relationships with community groups, relationships that can help year round. It is also important that we as a community take every opportunity to show that the lives of these children and their adult relatives matter to us. It isn’t what we get out of it or how we are acknowledged that matters. It isn’t up to us to figure out who is naughty or nice. It doesn’t matter if we get to see gifts opened or smiles light up faces.
What matters to us as the community is knowing that we are contributing to the social fabric that binds us together. We gain when we share with others without asking anything in return. Our hearts grow through the giving itself.
I”m not dismissing the myriad of systemic issues at play here. I’m not asking you to put on your savior hat and swoop in to rescue Tiny Tim. Remember, Tiny Tim actually helped to save Scrooge after all. I’m not going to pat you on the back or give you a shout-out.
I’m just asking you to help keep a promise the community made to these families.