More than 3,500 children had a Christmas last year because of the Toys for Tots/KMVT Christmas for Kids program. It aims to give that gift to 4,000 kids this year.
But the Community Room in the KMVT offices isn’t what it was at this time last year. Mounds of toys are now small piles — or bare spots on carpet labeled with handwritten placards such as one for “Girls 12 yrs & up.”
“It was mounded up much higher and this area was full,” said Paul Johnson, program coordinator, as he stood in an empty section of the room.
He noted that some toy deliveries still need to happen, but they won’t fill the room to where it was last year. Johnson blames the drop in donations on a combination of the still-struggling economy and teeth-chattering temperatures during toy-gathering events.
The program aims to give all kids in south-central Idaho a Christmas, Johnson said, and takes steps to ensure its services are equitable.
Families are vetted to ensure their level of need — generally, they need to be at or below 135 percent of the poverty rate, though that is flexible. The list is also compared against programs run by other nonprofits, such as the Salvation Army, to ensure some kids don’t end up better off than others in just as much need, Johnson said.
Each child gets about $30 worth of presents, with an assortment of dollar-store stocking-stuffers, Johnson said. The program focuses on toys more than necessities, such as jackets, to avoid issues with size and styles. And besides, a jacket doesn’t quite excite an 8-year-old as much as a Tonka truck.
While all donations are accepted and the program is grateful for them, only new toys will be given to the children.
“We don’t want to make these kids feel like second-class citizens, getting someone else’s used toys,” Johnson said.
Used toys are donated to other local charities, he said.
Nick Coltrain may be reached at email@example.com or 735-3220.