The Sal­vation Army helps fam­ilies with pre­reg­is­tration and appli­ca­tions for receiving toys from Hillsdale County’s Toys for Tots Cam­paign. Julia Mullins | Col­legian

Each year the Hillsdale County Toys for Tots Cam­paign pro­vides more than 200 children with Christmas gifts, and this year local busi­nesses and orga­ni­za­tions will come together to serve fam­ilies in the com­munity. 

The Hillsdale County Toys for Tots 2019 Cam­paign will be dis­trib­uting its toys at the Hillsdale Assembly of God Church again this year. 

“Without the Toys for Tots, a lot of kids would go without Christmas,” Pam Bognar said. This is Bognar’s second year as the Hillsdale County coor­di­nator of Toys for Tots, although she’s been involved with the program for 10 years.

All toys are dis­tributed to fam­ilies residing in Hillsdale County. Besides new toys, the program offers fam­ilies vouchers to Hillsdale Mar­ket­house Super­market to provide a Christmas dinner. A group of farmers and dairy pro­ducers from Hillsdale County also have donated 300 cer­tifi­cates for fam­ilies to pur­chase milk, butter, and cheese.

The Sal­vation Army helps fam­ilies with pre­reg­is­tration and appli­ca­tions for receiving toys from the program. Each family is then given a time on either Dec. 9 or 10 when they will choose toys for their children at the Hillsdale Assembly of God.

Sal­vation Army captain Cas­sondra Grey has helped check fam­ilies in for a few years, and said she loves the cul­mi­nation of the program at the toy shop.

“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched faces change as they go into the toy shop,” Grey said. “The parents are a little nervous and excited at first, and when they come out they are so over­joyed and so full. By giving the oppor­tunity to choose the toys back to the parents, it gives them a sense of being able to provide for their children.”

On the dis­tri­b­ution days, each family is paired with a vol­unteer to go through the toy shop with them. 

“We have such incredible vol­un­teers,” Grey said. “They really engage with the parents. It’s so pow­erful. We’re saying to the parents, ‘I see you. I want to be there with you. I want to live life with you. I want to see you succeed and be happy.’” 

R.G. Hawkes Trucking always donates many toys to the Hillsdale Toys for Tots. The company hosts an annual fundraiser hayride with a bonfire, cider, and doughnuts. Randy and Troy Hawkes, mil­itary vet­erans and owners of the company, have been col­lec­tively sup­porting Toys for Tots for more than 25 years. Troy Hawkes was the central point of contact with Toys for Tots for his squadron while he was enlisted and has enjoyed part­nering with the program ever since.

“We put on the fundraiser, but without the par­tic­i­pation, we wouldn’t be able to do much,” Troy Hawkes said. “I really want to thank all who donate to the Toys for Tots and for the community’s con­tinued support.”

Many others help fundraise throughout Hillsdale County. For 18 years, the Jonesville Detachment of the Michigan State Police Jackson Post and the Jonesville Fire Department have col­lected toys together for the program. The fire department hosts a toy drive at Walmart every year on the first Sat­urday of December. Nationally, the Sal­vation Army is part­nering with Walmart on Nov. 9 to collect toys. The Hillsdale branch of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Ser­vices join forces with the Sal­vation Army to set up and dis­tribute at the toy shop.

Hillsdale College is sup­porting Toys for Tots this fall, once again. There is a large col­lection box in the lobby of the Roche Sports Complex where stu­dents can deposit new, unopened toys at any time. This November there will be col­lection events during three dif­ferent games. Com­munity fans will receive com­pli­mentary admission if they bring toys to the fol­lowing Hillsdale College sporting events: Charger Women’s Bas­ketball on Sunday, Nov. 10; Charger Football on Sat­urday, Nov. 16; and Charger Men’s Bas­ketball on Wednesday, Nov. 27. The Hillsdale County Toys for Tots vol­un­teers will collect Hillsdale College’s boxes on Dec. 5 in time for dis­tri­b­ution this Christmas.

The Toys for Tots is still accepting appli­ca­tions for fam­ilies to receive toys and is in great need of vol­un­teers. For more infor­mation, visit the Hillsdale County’s Toys for Tots Facebook page.