Toys for Tots brings joy to the Valley

Gwen Barringer
IVN Contributing Writer

Josephine County’s Toys for Tots program and the Illinois Valley Toy Drive are getting ready to hold their annual toy distribution events. While Toys for Tots is still seeking parents and guardians who would like to use their program to improve their family’s holiday season, they are also in need of gifts for an often-overlooked demographic- local teenagers.
Toys For Tots, a nonprofit program that was brought to Josephine County over 30 years ago at the behest of the Rogue Valley Young Marines, strives to serve as many underprivileged local families as possible every year. This year, the program will hold its annual parent distribution event at the Josephine County Fairgrounds on Sunday, Dec. 17, and Monday, Dec. 18.
In 2022 alone, the program distributed over 3,000 toys, and helped over 1,400 local children experience just a little more holiday magic. This has been accomplished with the help of local businesses that have generously set up donation boxes for gifts at their respective locations. In Josephine County alone, there are approximately 70 donation boxes that can be found at all manner of businesses.
These donation boxes are integral to the success of Toys for Tots, but it is just as important to make sure that local families know about the program so that they can utilize it.
In an interview, local coordinator Linda Bradley explained, “We want parents to know that JoCo Toys for Tots is here for parents. We encourage them to take advantage of this program because we know so many parents struggle this time of year.” Based on past and current applications, Bradley estimates that there are approximately 800 families in Josephine County that will utilize their program this year
With that in mind, Bradley would also like to call attention to a situation the program has encountered – namely, that they are still in need of gifts for local teenagers. Bradley went on to explain that “Most of our toys are suitable for kids ages 12 and under, and about 60% of the kids who we helped last year were teenagers.”
In the past, this issue has been circumvented by using cash donations that are accumulated in the weeks following Thanksgiving to purchase toys exclusively for Josephine County’s teens, and according to Bradley, only about 40% of this year’s applicants have included teenagers in their applications so far. Toys for Tots is still very much open to receiving new applications and expanding their reach to even more families, and although the technical deadline to apply is Dec. 15, Bradley explained that they will not turn away families in need even past the deadline. All that needs to be shown is proof of residency, and proof of guardianship of a child who is in need of some additional holiday cheer.
Those interested in donating to Toys for Tots or applying to the program can visit www.josephinecounty.toysfortots.org to learn more. Residents of the Illinois Valley specifically can drop off donations to boxes that have been set up at the Cave Junction Wild River location and the New Amsterdam Dispensary in Kerby.
And another way to support Illinois Valley children is to donate a toy to the Illinois Valley Toy Drive. Coordinator Monique Allen said, “This community driven program, headed up by the Illinois Valley Youth Enrichment Association is designed to bring smiles and memories to the Valley while reminding us what community is about.” Allen also explained that this “Gifts from Santa” program is open to all families in the Illinois Valley, it is not income or age based.
There is short application in this week’s edition of the Illinois Valley News on A-9 for participating families. You can fill out the application and take it to Redwood Service located at 223 N. Redwood Ave. or send the same information to ivyea@cavenet.com. If you have special concerns you can call Allen at Redwood Service Center in Cave Junction at 541-659-2667.
Toy donations for the program can be accepted at Redwood Service Center, I.V. Reclaimed, Dollar General and Bigfoot Print and Copy.