Program helps children get Christmas gifts

Christmas is about the joy of giving and sharing and there are some families in Moffat County who don't have the means to do either some who cannot afford toys for their children.

The disappointment on a child's face when there are no presents under the tree Christmas morning can be heart-breaking.

The generosity of Craig residents makes that sight unnecessary, especially with the annual Toys for Tots program that provides gifts for underprivileged children.

Applications for Toys for Tots are due today, but anyone who missed the deadline may fill out an application at United Way. According to coordinator Georgina McAnally, several applications have been received and volunteers are in the process of collecting the applications.

Eligibility is based on income and criteria are similar to social service standards. Applications require proof of income or proof of eligibility for assistance through the Colorado Works program or food stamps.

Volunteer Kim Zimmerman said there are exceptions.

"If people feel they need toys, just fill out the application," Zimmerman said. "I don't know that we'd turn anyone away."

All applications are kept confidential and have spaces for a child's clothing size, shoe size and interests. Volunteers try to match donations with a child's interest.

"We don't give shoes or clothes unless people specifically ask for it or people donate them," Zimmerman said.

According to Zimmerman, each child usually receives two to four gifts.

The hardest orders to fill are for older children. Zimmerman encourages people to donate items appropriate for an older child, such as games. Another shortage is infant toys and, according to McAnally, balls, dolls and sports equipment is always needed. A popular request this year is anything Pokemon, she said.

Last year, Toys for Tots provided gifts for more than 280 children.

Residents may donate toys in a variety of ways. There are drop boxes placed at Kmart, American Northwest Realty, Community First National Bank, Kmart, Robb's Market, First National Bank of the Rockies, Craig Ford, AT&T Cable and Moffat County United Way. Only new toys are accepted and they must not be wrapped.

"Every child deserves at least one new toy for Christmas," McAnally said.

People may also drop toys off during the second annual Media Holiday Toy Drive. From 5 a.m. to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday, residents may leave donations in front of the Centennial Mall on their way to work. Volunteers will be on hand to collect donations so people won't even have to get out of their cars. In addition to toys, food and clothes will be collected during the drive and donated to shelters and food banks in Routt, Moffat and Rio Blanco counties.

Last year, six tons of donations and almost $3,000 in cash was collected.

In addition to community donations of gifts, Toys for Tots also receives funding from United Way. Those dollars go toward the purchase of any gifts that were not donated.

Toy pick-up is Dec. 18 at United Way. Parents are asked not to bring their children when picking up toys. All toys are available unwrapped.

"Its such a nice thing to do," Zimmerman said. "The parents ... their faces just light up when they see it. That makes it all worthwhile."

First Security Bank also works to provide toys to underprivileged children. Each year, the bank purchases kits to make dolls and toys. These kits are given to community members to put together and decorate and return to First Security Bank where they are distributed to needy children.

This year, 24 dolls and 24 toys were collected and returned. The numbers were down from last year, coordinator JoAnna Hatten said, because the bank didn't order as many because it had considered cancelling the program.

"But we were so overwhelmed with calls we decided at the last minute to do it," Hatten said.

All the toys ordered were distributed.

"The community is really neat," Hatten said. "They are real good about helping."

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