Kent County provides storage space to Toys for Tots

 

On Tuesday night, Kent County Levy Court commissioners unanimously agreed to lease the county-owned building on 26 Starlifter Ave. in Dover to the local chapter of Toys for Tots for storage. (Delaware State News/Ian Gronau)

DOVER — For the last few years, the Kent County chapter of the Marine Corps League’s Toys for Tots program has struggled to find a stable location to stockpile their charitable haul. On Tuesday night, Kent County Levy Court commissioners put an end to their search — at least for this year.

Local Toys for Tots representatives approached commissioners at their Sept. 19 committee meetings and asked if they’d be able to use the currently vacant, 10,000-square-foot county-owned building on 26 Starlifter Ave. in Dover this fall. Not having any immediate plans for the building, commissioners unanimously agreed to lease the building to the charitable organization for a short term (until Jan. 16) for $1.

In 2015, Toys for Tots was using Greentree Shopping Center for this purpose — a location they’d been at for five years. But, in 2016 they found out that it was unavailable and they had to store gifts temporarily in a storage shed in Woodside. Later that year, they were able to store gifts at a vacant building that became available in the Bay Court Plaza in Dover, although they had to do some repairs on the heating system. Earlier this year, they found out that they’d once again be on the hunt for storage space. Luckily, the county building seems to meet their needs perfectly and is already in usable condition.

The county purchased the building — originally built to house a business called Monster Racing — back in late 2015 for $845,000. According to county administrator Michael Petit de Mange, the lease works out well because the county doesn’t have an immediate use for the property. It was originally purchased in anticipation that the “civil air terminal” in the nearby Dover Air Force Base would one day expand. This may still happen, said Mr. Petit de Mange.

“We own a few lots in the Aeropark back there — four that are adjoining the civil air terminal,” he said. “The building will probably play a role if the terminal is ever expanded. There have already been several studies on how an expanded tarmac and terminal can be laid out. However, the joint use agreement between the base and DelDOT (who owns the civil air terminal) that allows for non-military aircraft to land there expires in a few years. There will have to be an extension of that agreement by 40 or 50 years before any expansion projects are looked at seriously.”

If the county again finds itself in the same position at this time next year, Mr. Petit de Mange said commissioners would likely continue to support Toys for Tots’ mission — possibly offering a longer term solution to their storage space woes.

Toys for Tots collection usually begins in early October. According to a coordinator for the group, the first collection event this year will be the Harrington Moose Riders’ 2nd annual poker run on Oct. 7 at Camden-Wyoming Moose Lodge 203 on 760 Moose Lodge Road.

Toys arrive in several 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 the 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 coordinators who buy toys to supplement what is collected in local drives and boxes.

According to the organization, the Kent County portion of the effort usually helps between 1,000 and 1,500 local families.

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.

Reach staff writer Ian Gronau at igronau@newszap.com

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