Last day for Toybox donations

Wednesday, December 19, 2007
Three-year-old Alexa DeLuca and her mother, Sarah DeLuca, looked for the right board game Tuesday while filling a bag for Toybox. Today is the final day to donate toys. (Kit Doyle)

Houses with dirt floors, barely any insulation and light bulbs hanging from a cord in the ceiling left an impression with Rick Crow when he helped the Jaycees deliver toys for their Toybox charity program years ago.

He told his fellow car buddies in the River City Rodders Car Club about the experience and the club decided to help out with "the bigger ticket items," said Crow, now the president of the club. This marks the fourth year for the bike donation from the Rodders, bringing the grand total of child cyclists to 101, Crow said.

"It's pretty humbling if you've never done it to go and see what that environment is," Crow said. "Toybox cannot afford to go out and buy $1,000, $1,500 worth of bicycles."

Every year, the club takes the leftover money from its annual car show in September and donates it to local charities. Crow said he calls Wal-Mart -- where employees refer to them as "the bike guys" -- and the store orders, assembles and holds the bikes for pickup.

Even with the donation, Toybox isn't full yet. The annual charity that brings toys to needy families in Southeast Missouri during the Christmas season had 397 applicants this year -- that translates to about 1,200 children.

Most of the donation locations have stopped accepting toys, but items can still be brought to the Southeast Missourian office through by 5 p.m. today. Monetary donations are welcome and will be used next year to purchase "staple items" like Barbie dolls, said Toybox chairwoman Tracy Haggerty.

Haggerty said they still have about 130 applicants to take care of tonight before the Santa bags start their trips. She said most of those families will get toys thanks to the past weekend's donations, but they are still "keeping our fingers crossed" that they can give everyone enough toys to make the holiday a little brighter.

Thanks to Notre Dame Regional High School's more than 500 toys donated from their toy drive and the 30 bicycles from the River City Rodders, she is confident the families won't be let down.

The Cape Girardeau Jaycees co-sponsor the holiday gift program each year with the Southeast Missourian. Haggerty has been the chair for three years running. This year the number of applicants is up by 100 over last year, possibly due to plant closings around town, she said.

Most of the families are single-parent or single-income families who manage to scrape by day to day but find it nearly impossible to scrounge enough for presents.

Ron MacCubbin, left, and his son, Clatyon, 4, weaved through toys while transporting bikes to a separate area for sorted gifts with the Jaycees Toybox Tuesday evening. (Kit Doyle)

"It's hard to manage paying bills and providing food -- extra money for gifts is just not there," said one parent living on a single income with three children younger than 12 and one older than 12, the cutoff age for Toybox deliveries.

The Salvation Army helps to gather and screen applicants, then submits qualified profiles to the Jaycees. Toybox has been bringing presents to families for 33 years.

Thursday night, volunteers from the Noon Optimist club, a group of teachers and several Jaycee members will load up their sleighs -- otherwise known as white delivery vans -- and deliver toys to area girls and boys.

Haggerty said that with more families on the list this year, they have had to use more of the monetary donations than in previous years. Usually Toybox can put back some money to start next year's drive. As it stands this year they do not have enough to put back for the future and will have to depend on eager donors in 2008 to start the drive.

Haggerty said donations for next year can be mailed to P.O. Box 4, Cape Girardeau, Mo., 63702.

Whitney Stamp, left, and Adam Andrews organized filled gift bags for the Jaycees Toybox Tuesday night in a warehouse donated by Mark Radamaker. More than 20 Santas will distribute the gifts Thursday. (Kit Doyle)

335-6611, extension 246

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