Toys for Tots finds Dover donation site

DOVER — Seek and you will find.

But after months of looking for a new warehouse location for the local Marine Toys for Tots Foundation and coming up empty, Kent County coordinator Dennis Sipple, of Marydel, was a bit worried.

The worry started a year ago when he learned the vacant store in the Greentree Shopping Center on Del. 8 used by Toys for Tots for five years no longer would be available. It’s now the home of AAA Car Care Center.

As late as mid-October, Mr. Sipple was storing donated toys in an overflowing storage shed in Woodside. The Dec. 19 distribution date loomed large on the calendar.

“I drove around the city and looked for a building,” Mr. Sipple said. “Every building that was vacant in the city I called and asked about.”

His motivation was high, though, because he believes every kid deserves a Christmas.

With that in mind, Mr. Sipple was determined to find a building for the program.

Dennis Sipple, Kent County coordinator for the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation, is shown with toys that had been held at a storage shed. He hopes donations pick up now that a warehouse to hold toys has been found. (Delaware State News/Arshon Howard)

Dennis Sipple, Kent County coordinator for the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation, is shown with toys that had been held at a storage shed. He hopes donations pick up now that a warehouse to hold toys has been found. (Delaware State News/Arshon Howard)

The search was a struggle, he said, and he was relieved when he recently stumbled across a vacant building in the Bay Court Plaza at 650 S. Bay Road in Dover.

“We were nervous, but I’m glad that everything worked out,” Mr. Sipple said.

“We’ll be out before Christmas. The only thing that we have to pay for this year is the gas for the heat. Our budget is limited, so we’re trying to use that on toys.”

The campaign

The annual campaign provides Christmas toys for families who might not be able to buy any for their children. The organization hopes to help about 1,200 families this year.

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.

The foundation’s guidelines require Mr. Sipple 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 to help as many families as possible.
Volunteers segregate the toys stored at the warehouse by traditional gender-interest and age-appropriateness.

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 and which Mr. Sipple is a member, came on board in 1996.

“We were nervous this year,” Mr. Sipple said, about the challenge of finding a place to store donations. He didn’t want to think about what not finding one could mean.

“That means we would have had to scale way back and a lot of families wouldn’t have got their toys.

“We go through 15,000 to 20,000 toys and you can’t do that out of your house. That’s a lot to deal with.”

He’s also worried that donations have been low, due to the organization not having a building.

“We got started late this year,” Mr. Sipple said. “We usually start in October, but we had to start in November. But we have some events coming up that will help increase the toy count.”

Drives

Some upcoming drives include:

• Breakfast with Santa at the Correctional Officers Association at the Delaware Union Hall, 1243 College Park Drive, Dover. It will begin at 9 a.m. Dec. 5. Children and adults are asked to bring a new toy and then visit with Santa, eat breakfast and enjoy children activities. Seating is limited, so reservations are required; call (302) 734-8061.

• Flying Dragon Taekwon-Do of Smyrna and former members of the Dover Monster Racing Team will collect toys from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Dec. 6 at the Dover YMCA, 1137 S. State St.

• Also on Dec. 6, Buck’s Barber Shop, on Del. 8 west of Dover, will give a free haircut to people who bring in toys. Hours are 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

• The American Legion Walter L. Fox Post 2 in Dover will collect toys from 1 to 6 p.m. Dec. 6. It’s at 835 Bay Road.

• Bring a toy to Dover International Speedway on Dec. 12 and you can have a photograph taken with Santa Claus in the Sunoco Victory Lane. Hours are 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and people should use the entrance off Leipsic Road. Follow the parking signs, and visitors will be transported inside the track to Victory Lane. for more information, visit www.doverspeedway.com.

Debbie Lardierie, a barber at Buck’s Barber Shop, said the entire staff wanted to help out as much as they could.

“We all just felt like it was the right thing to do,” she said. “That’s what Christmas is all about.”

Mr. Sipple shared the same sentiment.

“Times may be rough for some people,” he said. “People need help and we’re trying our best to do that. We’re trying to give kids a Christmas. Every kid deserves one.”

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