Toys for Tots falls short; organizers call for donations

Toys For Tots volunteers in Jackson County are hoping to start wrapping up holiday gifts soon. But while the need for new toys has increased, donations are down this year, coordinators say.

"We have so few toys in our boxes," said Teresa Fraser, coordinator of Jackson County's Marine Corps Toys For Tots program.

About 100 volunteers are anxiously checking the contents of the 200 collection boxes located throughout the community. But with more than 5,000 applications anticipated from families who need a little help to brighten the holidays for local children in need, time is of the essence, Fraser said.

Fraser estimates $250,000 worth of toys were given to 4,502 Jackson County children in 2009.

This isn't the first year the collection drive has needed a big push from community Santas to reach its goal. In 2009, Toys For Tots and the Salvation Army were desperately short of meeting their goals when local residents responded in a big way.

Fraser said the two organizations work together to assist as many families as possible and compare lists to make sure they aren't duplicating donations.

The donation drives have a positive effect on impoverished children and the local economy.

Cash donations represent about 20 percent of Toys For Tots gifts distributed in Jackson County.

Eighty percent of the toys, which are purchased at local businesses, are bought by area residents and placed in collection boxes.

"I need each box to have 100 toys in it," Fraser said.

The Marine Corps founded Toys for Tots nationally in 1947, and Jackson County started its all-volunteer effort in 1992.

The nonprofit gifting program supplies toys to children of pre-approved families who register through the Department of Human Services, Fraser said.

Volunteers place the boxes in area schools and businesses, then pick up the toys, sort, count and bag them for distribution, she said.

Toys are given to children ages 1 through 15. Historically, gifts in shortest supply are those suitable for kids 10 years old and up, said Fraser.

"We always get very few donations for kids that age," she said. "It's the hardest and most expensive group to buy for. But every kid deserves something new at Christmas."

Fraser suggested stymied donors ask their neighbors and friends what gifts older children might enjoy. Books, beauty items, craft kits and sports equipment are popular, she said.

"And anything electronic is the hot thing, of course," Fraser said. "Kids like MP-3 players, and they are available in different price ranges."

The Medford School District has joined in with a school-level campaign, called "Kids Helping Kids." Each district school will accept donations of new, unwrapped toys from students and families through Friday, Dec. 3. Volunteers will distribute the toys to qualified families at two locations on Saturday, Dec. 18, she said.

Toys for Tots also donates toys to Jackson County foster parents organizations, the Northwest Seasonal Workers Association and the Jackson County Sheriff's Department. This year the program also will help Santa at Providence Festival of Trees' Night of Giving, Fraser said.

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Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 541-776-4497 or e-mail

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