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Toy drive sees more gift requests, but fewer donations

Kiwanis President JR Crawford places gift tags on a Kiwanis Toy Drive tag tree at Vashon Thriftway. - Amelia Heagerty/staff photo
Kiwanis President JR Crawford places gift tags on a Kiwanis Toy Drive tag tree at Vashon Thriftway.
— image credit: Amelia Heagerty/staff photo

One 11-year-old Island girl is asking for a play swimming pool for Christmas this year. She’d also like warm clothes, pajamas and personal care items.

But she’s not asking Santa or her parents for these humble gifts. She’s one of 200 children asking the Island community to help make her Christmas a special one by giving to the Kiwanis toy drive.

This year, the toy drive has seen a 20 percent increase in requests for gifts and a dismal rate of donations, said Kiwanis president JR Crawford. The drive served more than 160 children last year, but the number is 200 and counting this holiday season.

“It’s a sad commentary on what’s going on right now with our economy,” she said. “These kids don’t want extravagant things. ... To read these tags, it’s pretty sad to see what the kids are in need of and asking for as Christmas presents.”

Donations are “dribbling in” this year, said toy drive chair Joyce Smith.

“I just see that as a sign of the times,” she said. “I understand that it’s a hard time for everybody, but I think the working poor are suffering more.”

Food bank executive director Yvonne Pitrof concurred.

Some families have to decide during the frosty winter months whether to pay the rent, a heating bill or purchase holiday gifts. Heat and housing usually beat out the luxury of new toys, she said. Many food bank families submit requests for gifts through the toy drive, she added.

“Everybody needs food and a roof over their head, there’s no doubt about that, but to be able to provide that little bit of magic we think of and remember of the holidays, that’s a beautiful thing,” Pitrof said. “I know this program makes a really big difference to a lot of families, and it is great.”

Donation boxes and tag trees with the requests of Island children in need are located at Vashon Pharmacy, US Bank, Island Lumber, Sound Food, Vashon Thriftway and Vashon True Value. Those who wish to help local children this season can “adopt” a child by picking up a tag at one of those locations, or drop off any gift in one of the boxes — the Kiwanis will match that gift with a needy child. Many children have requested books, art supplies, stuffed animals and games.

The drive is also accepting monetary contributions to help fill the requests that aren’t met by physical donations. Mail contributions to the Vashon Kiwanis, P.O. Box 262, Vashon, 98070.

Those who purchase gifts off gift tags are asked to return the gifts, unwrapped, to a donation box by Dec. 18 at the latest. The original gift tag should be attached.

Though the deadline to make requests for gifts has passed, the Kiwanis won’t turn away more requests.

“Helping children is always our main goal,” Smith said.

Other Island programs also help out children and families in need during the holidays.

Vashon Electric, Ed Palmer Construction and Baron Construction sponsor a “Bikes for Kids” program for children of low-income families. Requests for bikes should be mailed to P.O. Box 2936, Vashon, by Dec. 15.

And Vashon’s St. Vincent de Paul chapter helps local families with gifts and food during the holiday season. Though the nonprofit is affiliated with the Catholic Church, any Islander in need can request assistance from the group.

“When it’s dark and everything is stressful, it’s really nice to have a moment to smile and have joy with a child,” Pitrof said. “I think everybody deserves a happy holiday.”

Contact Kiwanis president J.R. Crawford at 954-9959 or toy drive chair Joyce Smith at 567-5563 for information about the Kiwanis Toy Drive. Call St. Vincent de Paul at (206) 767-6449 to request gift or food assistance this holiday season.

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