‘Every kid deserves something under the tree’: Kent County Toys for Tots still in need of donations

 

Last year’s toy collection (pictured), stored at the Bay Court Plaza in Dover went toward helping 1,200 local families. This year’s stockpile (about only a quarter of the above) is at least 1,000 toys short by Kent County Toys for Tots coordinator Dennis Sipple’s reckoning. (Submitted photo)

Last year’s toy collection (pictured), stored at the Bay Court Plaza in Dover went toward helping 1,200 local families. This year’s stockpile (about only a quarter of the above) is at least 1,000 toys short by Kent County Toys for Tots coordinator Dennis Sipple’s reckoning. (Submitted photo)

DOVER — Last year, this paper reported on Toy’s for Tots Kent County Delaware Coordinator Dennis Sipple’s trouble finding a new location to store the foundation’s stockpiled gifts.

Their old location at Greentree Shopping Center, which they’d used for five years, was unavailable and he’d had to start storing toys temporarily in an overflowing storage shed in Woodside. Luckily, he found he could house the gifts at a vacant building in the Bay Court Plaza in Dover. At the time, he was still a bit concerned because the building’s heating system needed repairs and the heating bill would likely sap some of the donation funds that could otherwise be used to secure more gifts for children. But luck struck again.

“We were going to have to pay for gas, but a kind gentleman named Terry Lamb of Lamb Construction stepped up and paid for it,” said Mr. Sipple. “He actually had his people come over and fix the heater at no charge and he took care of the bills for the whole season.”

Mr. Sipple is storing toys at the same location this year. Toy collection started back in October, but they have yet to turn on the heaters.

“We may have to turn them on soon, but so far it has been on the warmer side,” he said.

As of Friday, the organization had stored about 200 gifts, but Mr. Sipple said the big events they had over the weekend should help.

“Toys are trickling in at this point, usually people don’t really start thinking about Toys for Tots until after Thanksgiving,” he said. “The Correctional Officers Association of Delaware’s Breakfast with Santa event on Saturday and a fundraiser concert at Cowboy Up on Sunday will help.”

The Breakfast with Santa event held at the COAD headquarters on College Park Drive in Dover on Saturday, now in its sixth year, played host to over 200 people. The free event allowed children to visit Santa for breakfast and enjoy other activities like face painting, arts and crafts, the Mobile Cloud Video Game Party Truck and a DJ. The event was staffed by correction officers who volunteered their time. Each child in attendance brought a new, unwrapped toy to donate to Kent County Toys for Tots.

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“It’s become a COAD annual tradition,” said Hal Taylor, the event’s coordinator. “It’s our way of ensuring children in Delaware wake up Christmas morning with toys under the tree and their stockings filled.”

The Cowboy Up event on Sunday featured live music from local bands Hooverville, Phillip Michael Parsons and Backyard Bonfire.

Toys will be collected up till the distribution date of Dec. 17.

Toys arrive in different ways. Fellow Marine Corps League members in the Kent County detachment regularly collect donations from red boxes placed at businesses and in organizations’ lobbies throughout Kent County, from Milford to Smyrna.

Some groups and businesses organize toy drives while individuals may donate money. Monetary donations are turned in to the Toys for Tots foundation, where the money is put on credit cards and sent back to Mr. Sipple who buys toys to supplement what is collected in local drives and collection boxes.

“Every year we get pretty close to our target,” he said. “But for every toy we don’t get, I go out and buy one with donated money. Last year we had to spend about $20,000 because we came up short.”

The foundation’s guidelines require Mr. Sipple to keep records and spend less than $30 per toy. All toys must be new, not include food and not look like realistic weapons, according to the Toys for Tots website, www.toysfortots.org.

Mr. Sipple said he tries to keep it under $20, to stretch the money and help as many families as possible. Volunteers separate the toys stored at the warehouse by traditional gender-interest and age-appropriateness.

“We’ll always go by the age appropriateness printed right on the box,” he said. “Families in need fill out online forms with us that include the child’s name, gender and age so we can make sure they get something that’s right for them. Then they get an email back that tells them when and where to come pick up the toys. Everyone has to be pre-registered — this is only because I can’t have 500 people show up the day of to pick up toys we don’t have.”

Mr. Sipple said the Kent County portion of the effort helped 1,200 local families last year, he hopes to pack another 1,000 toys into bags before the collection date. Toys are organized, then bagged for distribution — wrapping them is left up to parents.

The original Toys for Tots drive began in 1947 and went national in 1948. The Marine Corps League, a U.S. chartered organization of Marine veterans which Mr. Sipple is a member, came on board in 1996. Mr. Sipple himself has been involved with the effort in Kent County for about 15 years.

“It’s a lot of work, but many years ago a friend of mine helped my family and I just feel that every kid deserves something under the tree,” he said. “My wife, Holly, and my 14-year-old son are a big part of this too. My son’s first job was handing out stuffed animals to the kids as they came to pick up toys.”

A full listing of collection sites can be found by visiting toysfortots.org, clicking “find local drop-off” and selecting “Delaware” and then “Kent” from the pull down menu.

Arshon Howard contributed to this report.

Reach staff writer Ian Gronau at igronau@newszap.com

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