From donations to distribution, the local Toys for Tots effort has had to be reimagined in all sorts of ways this year. The national nonprofit’s local group hasn’t been able to fundraise and has received fewer donations than usual, and toy pickups will be different with COVID safety protocols to follow. But it’s happening nonetheless! And it’s not too late to donate or register to receive a toy for your tot.
Schools usually register kids for the Toys for Tots program, but with distance learning less than half of Humboldt’s schools were able to do that this year. Children who were registered in previous years are automatically eligible for 2020, and parents or guardians can register new kids here. If you’re unable to register, you can attend a distribution event in person and still receive a toy. Toys for Tots won’t require proof of identification, and only need a phone number from those who appear without registering first.
Humboldt’s first wave of toy distribution is happening this weekend, at the former Ray’s in McKinleyville. Pickups are happening Friday the 11th through Sunday the 13th, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. each day. Folks in Willow Creek can pick up toys this weekend, too, on Saturday the 12th at the Veteran’s Hall from 9 a.m to 3 p.m.
There will be two more Humboldt distributions next week at different locations. In Garberville, toys will be distributed at New Hope Church from 10 am to 2 pm on Saturday, December 19th. Eureka’s only distribution is at the former Staples store next to CVS, which will be open 9 am to 3 pm, from Saturday the 19th through Monday the 21st. There will be one evening time slot at this location too, on Saturday from 6 pm to 8 pm.
If none of those pickup times or locations work for you, call the local Toys for Tots office at (707) 443 4480. Leave your phone number and the age and gender of your child, and Toys for Tots will call you back to arrange a time and pickup place that works for you.
Local Toys for Tots Coordinating Officer Gregg Gardiner told the Outpost that the organization will follow COVID safety measures for toy distributions, which will include temperature checks at the door, a mask requirement and social distancing. “It’s very unusual,” Gardiner said. “For safety, we have to do that.”
Toys for Tots accepts money donations as well as toys. Donate money here, or mail a check to their office at 2383 Myrtle Avenue, Eureka 95501. You can physically drop off toys at that address if you’d like, or drop them off at any of the locations on this list.
“I think the most important thing for people to know is if they make a donation, 100 percent of that donation stays local,” Gardiner said. All donations go entirely toward buying toys.
In terms of cash donations, the organization works directly with “toy manufacturers and vendors to buy toys at deeply discounted prices so they can stretch your cash donation as far as possible and allow them to serve more needy children at Christmas time,” Gardiner said.
That said, he greatly appreciates both toy and cash donations. “I gotta believe in my heart of hearts that those folks went out and bought with their family, and they thought about it and they gave it love. It adds an intrinsic value,” he said. “I like to encourage people to do that, because I think that’s a really meaningful way to enjoy Christmas, that spirit of giving.” In addition to toys, Toys for Tots distributes books, games and sporting goods.
Toys for Tots is a national nonprofit with over 800 coordinators throughout the country. Our local Toys for Tots organization distributes toys to families in Humboldt, Del Norte, Mendocino, Trinity and Curry counties. Between those few counties, local Toys for Tots has already sent out about two semi truckloads of toys to be distributed, Gardiner said. Last year the program supported 8,988 children and distributed 54,493 toys locally.