Meadville Tribune

Local News

December 11, 2012

Toys for Tots makes final push for items amid bleak giving season

MEADVILLE — Carrie Nageotte can’t remember a time in the past 16 years when things looked this bleak for local children at Christmas.

“Our collections are about half of what we had last year,” said Nageotte, who has coordinated the Toys for Tots program in Crawford County since it started locally 16 years ago.

This coming Monday at noon will be Nageotte’s deadline on whether the local countywide program will be able to meet its needs for this Christmas.

Though that deadline is eight days ahead of the Christmas holiday, the time is necessary, according to Nageotte. “We have to have time to get the toys to the families — that’s why the need is now,” she said softly.

Toys for Tots collects and distributes toys for needy families for children as old as age 16. The families with children who are age 16 must have younger children as well, she said. Toys for Tots uses Department of Public Welfare guidelines to determine if a family is eligible, and families must sign a declaration form, she said.

As an example of how tough things are this year, the eight collection boxes in western Crawford County in the Conneaut Lake, Conneautville and Linesville areas were practically empty when checked Thursday, she said.

“I think people haven’t gotten into the holiday spirit yet,” said Nageotte, noting weather can influence it. “I think people are not in the Christmas spirit because we’ve had no snow.”

So far, the local Toys for Tots program has been able to fill only 200 of its 319 family requests, according to Nageotte. While 414 children will get toys from the program, another 296 children are in jeopardy of not getting a present, she said.

Plus, there are additional strains on the program within the next week or two as requests come in from area service agencies, Nageotte said. Annually, another 50 to 100 children are added to the Toys for Tots program from those service agency requests, Nageotte said.

Any donations received Dec. 21 and after are held to the following year because of the time needed to pack and get the toys to a family, according to Nageotte.

“By then (Dec. 21), it’s essentially too late for that Christmas,” Nageotte said.

Nageotte has a staff of a half dozen volunteers who pack the toys for the families including “chief elf” Joyce Keenan, who was busy Monday filling orders at the Toys for Tots storage site at Vantage health care in Meadville.

“We try to give one large gift, two smaller gifts, an activity like a puzzle or coloring book, a game for the family and three books (for each child),” said Keenan. “Pack and stack, that’s what we do.”

Families then are contacted to make arrangements to pick up the toy package.

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