ELYRIA — After several years of partnering with neighboring Cuyahoga County, Toys for Tots of Lorain County is on its own.
And Christy Howard needs your help.
Howard, who is the Lorain County coordinator, has 400 families to provide for this year. That’s 800 children in need of a Christmas. And there is a waiting list.
She hopes to provide two toys to each child, a book, and a stocking stuffer. And right now, the donated warehouse she operates out of is nearly empty.
“Currently, we need everything,” she said. “We used all of the toys from last year, so we need everything for ages birth to 14 years old. I need toys. I need toys in a big way.”
Toys for Tots of Lorain County had partnered with Cuyahoga County to help with organizational aspects of the toy drive. All toys collected in Lorain County stayed in Lorain County.
But the local operation grew too big.
Now that she’s on her own, Howard, who works with 11 volunteers, wants to make sure she can continue to fill the need this holiday season and help everyone have a merry Christmas.
Howard suggests parents who have children should buy what they think their kids would like. For example, if their daughter is into Sofia the First, buy Sofia the First. For the teens, it’s a little harder.
“The older kids want beauty products — cologne, perfume, makeup, bath sets,” she said. “I try to jazz up the bath sets with a purse. Last year, I was giving the boys remote control cars with the bath sets.”
The Lorain County Toys for Tots program is the only one in the area that allows parents to come in and shop for their children.
“I was told I was crazy for letting people shop,” Howard said. “But picking out things they know their kids will like is what it is all about.”
Howard has been working with Toys for Tots for the past five years. Her oldest son, who is a Marine stationed at Parris Island, S.C., was in the Young Marines program in Brook Park five years ago, when she started talking to the Toys for Tots coordinator there.
She was looking to do some additional volunteer work, so she helped out a little. The following year, she helped a little more. And then she just ran with it.
Her position as coordinator is entirely volunteer, although it often feels like a full-time job, she said.
“It’s a year-round project,” she said. “There are summer activities, and this time of year is just crazy.”
The single mother works as a nurse technician at St. John Medical Center.
As she runs all around the county, Howard’s youngest son helps by being the family chef. Both her son and daughter also volunteer their time with Toys for Tots.
“I love kids,” she said. “I do it for the kids. I’m a single mom, too. I know it’s hard when your kids are sitting there and saying ‘I want an iPod. I want an iPod.’ And you’re thinking, ‘That’s great. I can’t even put food on the table.’ Parents feel bad when they can’t provide. I don’t want anyone to feel bad. If I know I’m in this position, what about everybody else?”
Howard hopes when people are out doing their Black Friday shopping or their holiday shopping that they think about the kids in Lorain County who need a Christmas and pick up something for Toys for Tots, or even one of the other holiday programs that donates toys to kids at Christmas.
“It takes all of us to help everyone,” she said. “Not one of us could do it alone. If you give to Big Brothers Big Sisters or the Salvation Army or The Chronicle-Telegram’s Not-Forgotten Box, that’s great, as long as no child goes without Christmas.”
Howard is still in need of volunteers throughout the holiday season. She also is looking for companies who may want to sponsor a toy drive. She needs shelving and bookcases to display the toys once they start coming in.
To help, call Howard at (440) 506-4765, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.toysfortots.org.
Contact Christina Jolliffe at 329-7155 or email@example.com.
Second annual Toys for Tots Skating event
WHEN: 2 to 5 p.m. Sunday.
WHERE: Elyria Roll Arena, 908 Cleveland St., Elyria.
ADMISSION: Free with a brand-new toy donation; skate rental $2; Inline skate rental $3.
To make a donation: Items can be dropped off at any of the Toys for Tots boxes throughout Lorain County.
To volunteer: Contact Christy Howard at (440) 506-4765 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information: Visit www.toysfortots.org.