Local toy drives set to bring smiles to Darke County children

Heather Meade

December 7, 2013

DARKE COUNTY – Toy drives in Darke County seem to be faring better than in other counties, and one local volunteer said she can see a big difference, year after year, between the county and surrounding areas.

Winnie Rader, Darke/Preble County coordinator for Toys for Tots, a program started by the U.S. Marine Corps, said that in Preble County, children often get the bare minimum from the toys sent by the national organization, but Darke County goes above and beyond, she said.

“Darke County – they’re awesome, they step up to the plate. I can tell a difference between my two counties; Darke County takes care of their kids and it’s just awesome,” Rader noted. “The generosity out of Darke County vs. Preble, Darke County smokes ‘em. Toys for Tots sends a supplemental toy selection; typically that’s all Preble gets.”

Last year, Toys for Tots helped 3,000 children in Darke County; and while donations are down from last year, Rader said she hopes to be able to make sure that no child goes without this holiday season.

“Donations are down, both toys and money; but we’ll pull it off. We expected that,” Rader said. “It always seems to pick up. I’ve been doing this for seven years; and I’ve never had to turn anyone away.”

And while Toys for Tykes cannot help nearly as many children, only having one drop-off date, they’re working with Toys for Tots to make sure that no child has to go without a gift this year.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Shelby and Darke Counties (BBBS) is organizing the Toys for Tykes donations pulled in by local motorcycle club, the Road Hoggs, said Jennifer Bruns, executive director of BBBS.

“We had a really good turnout for the toy drive this year,” said John Vanata, president of the Road Hoggs. “Darke County is always pretty generous, especially when it comes to taking care of the kids. We also received monetary donations, which we’ll use to buy additional toys and gift cards for families to be able to purchase holiday meals this year.”

This was the second year that BBBS and the Road Hoggs teamed up to deliver toys for tykes in Darke County. Last year, Bruns noted that Toys for Tykes assisted 23 children, and this year they will serve 30 of the 66 children who applied for assistance; the others, Winnie Rader said, will be able to receive assistance from Toys for Tots.

Even helping 30 children, it’s a big job for a staff of two, said Bruns, but “being able to help the families in Darke County community makes the work well worth it,” she added.

“I would love to see, in the future years to come, some sort of collaboration with churches, other social services agencies, and community members to help make Toys for Tykes even bigger for the families that are in need in Darke County,” Bruns stated.

So, whether Darke County residents donated to Toys for Tykes or Toys for Tots, they can rest assured that their gift will bring a smile to a Darke County child this holiday season, and between the two toy drives, no child should be left out this year.

Families who haven’t received assistance from other organizations, but missed Friday’s deadline, may still call Winnie Rader at 937-733-0885. Those wishing to give monetary donations to Toys for Tots may mail them to: Darke County Toys for Tots, c/o Dave Knapp, 500 Wagner Ave., Greenville, Ohio 45331.