TRAVERSE CITY — A little healthy competition is good for business, but area businesses set aside rivalries during the annual Toys for Tots campaign to work toward a common cause: making sure every child in need has a great Christmas.
The goal of the Toys for Tots campaign that started Nov. 23 is to distribute more than 25,000 new toys to children in need in Grand Traverse, Antrim, Kalkaska, Leelanau and Benzie counties.
“We have to collect a lot of toys in a short period of time, and we rely on our key sponsors. They do a tremendous job,” said Mike Kent, who has served on the Toys for Tots committee for 16 years. “Meijer has been very involved in each of the 16 years I’ve done this campaign, and the car dealerships with their large showrooms located in high traffic areas make great drop-off spots.”
Toys for Tots is an important part of the Christmas season for Bill Marsh, Jr., of the Bill Marsh Auto Group.
“The car dealerships are competitive throughout the year, but we all come together for the good of the community, and we have no issue with doing that,” Marsh said. “We push the toy drive as hard as we can, and even though it’s counter to most business practices, we all believe in coming together for the good of the community.”
Pastor Jim Holwerda, chaplain of The Father Fred Foundation, said the need this year is just as great as in previous years.
“Some of our guests are unemployed, but many are underemployed. Some have seen their hours cut to under 32 a week or are working low-paying jobs that don’t allow them any extras,” Holwerda said. “They are living on the financial edge, and the edge is a very vulnerable place to be.”
Holwerda said toys are distributed through human service agencies in a dignified, empowering way.
“People register with us and are assigned a time to come in and ‘shop,’” he said. “Toys for Tots will bring toys to Father Fred, and parents or grandparents can select suitable toys for their children. It’s not just someone giving you toys they thing are appropriate”
Kent said toys are always welcome, and any monetary donations go to items for infants and teenagers, age groups he said often are forgotten when thoughts go to toy shopping. The program also has distributed about 300 bikes each Christmas for the past 11 years to children in need through its Bikes for Tikes program.
Several events are taking place during the first week of December with proceeds benefitting Toys for Tots. The Benzie County Sheriff’s Department, along with the Michigan State Police, will host a Toys for Tots drive from 4 to 7 p.m. on Wednesday at A. Papano’s Pizza, 7803 Crystal Dr. in Beulah.
Suttons Bay School District, 500 S. Elm St., is collecting for Toys for Tots during a holiday concert at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday. A Fill-The-Bus fundraiser will take place Friday from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. in the Burger King parking lot, 3999 U.S. 31 in Traverse City. The 7 Monks Taproom at 128 S. Union St. in Traverse City is sponsoring an ugly Christmas sweater competition from 5 p.m. to midnight on Dec. 11. Enter the contest by contributing a toy or making a donation. Fox Motors Grand Traverse is sponsoring its annual Toys for Tots Wrap Up Party from 1 to 4 p.m. on Dec. 14 at 3464 N. U.S. 31 S.
For a full list of agencies and all drop-off locations, call 231-933-0344 or visit www.ToysForTots.org.