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.