Traditional toy drive helps 1,000 families



By Brittany Abeijon

Although some toy drives offer discounted priced toys to parents in their community, the annual toy drive sponsored by Carle Foundation Hospital, Carle Clinic, WDWS/WHMS and the Salvation Army has a large enough selection to offer holiday gifts for free.

The toy drive began Nov. 19 and will run until Dec. 12. The participating organizations hope to collect more than 12,000 toys, an increase from the estimated 9,000 to 10,000 toys collected last year. Carle has increased its personal goal as well. This year the hospital and clinic employees hope to contribute more than 3,000 toys, up from last year’s collection of 2,500.

“We have a 25 percent increase in toys from last year,” said Maj. John Turner, corps officer for Champaign County at the Salvation Army, 2212 N. Market St., Champaign. “Last year we helped 800 families, but this year we are helping around 1,000.”

Turner said although other toy drives may be similar, this is one that gives more than toys to children for the holidays. Each family receives three new toys per child and a gift certificate to a local grocery store for a holiday meal.

“This really makes Christmas for many families in town,” Turner said.

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The organizations are asking donators to purchase a new toy, suitable for infants through the age of 12, and drop it off unwrapped at one of several locations.

“We set up a sort of toy shop at the Salvation Army. We put (the toys) in a bag, and then parents can wrap it up and give it to the child,” Turner said.

The “toy store” will operate on Dec. 19 and Dec. 20, and registered parents will be assigned a time slot to come in and pick out their child’s toys.

“Parents can pick toys for their child and the children may not even know that it is from the Salvation Army,” Turner said. “It makes us totally invisible.”

Applications for parents from Champaign County were available in early November. Turner said the Salvation Army provides assistance to anyone within twice the level of poverty established by the government.

“Let’s say the level was an income of $8,000 a year. As long as the family income is not above $16,000, they are eligible,” Turner said.

This is the 22nd year Carle has participated with the Salvation Army in the toy drive, said Jennifer Hendricks Kaufmann, public relations and communications manager for Carle Clinic.

“We have volunteers emptying toy bins and employees participating,” she said. “Everyone just enjoys it a lot.”

Hendricks Kaufmann said more than 1,000 toys had been donated by Friday, and the hospital is confident it can exceed its goal of collecting 3,000 toys.

The toy drive will conclude with an all-day drive-through toy collection on Dec. 12 from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Carle Clinic, 1802 S. Mattis Ave., Champaign. Donors can also give cash to purchase toys at the drive-through.

“If we get lots of toys for, say, toddler girls, (the cash) allows (the Salvation Army) to go out and get different toys for the children they are going to serve,” Hendricks Kaufmann said.