OTTAWA — Putnam County residents who could not otherwise afford Christmas presents and food for their children have a helping hand at Putnam County Thrift Store this week.
The store’s Toys for Tots toy and food box giveaway kicked off Wednesday with the toy drive continuing through today and the food basket giveaway running through Friday. Families also received a bag filled with eggs, toilet paper and scarves as well as a food box with tuna, stuffing mix, beans, noodles, crackers, pudding and popcorn.
Tables filled with dolls, trucks, board games and an area with bicycles greeted parents as they entered the Toys For Tots giveaway location. Parents also were able to pick out a coat, hat, gloves, blanket and socks for their children up to age 12.
Andrea Gossard, of Ottawa, a single mom, shopped for her four sons, 7, 5, 4 and 1.
She picked out a Jurassic World toy, Paw Patrol toys and Legos.
“This means everything to me and helps out a lot,” Gossard said. She thanked the community for their donations to help make Christmas happen every year for families.
“It is a blessing to get extra help. On Christmas we will eat breakfast, unwrap presents and watch Christmas movies.”
There was an application process where residents applied to be a part of the program and visited the store this week to pick out toys and food with the help of volunteers.
The thrift store and Toys for Tots giveaway was started in 1976 by Bill Croy, father of Phyllis Mackey.
“He wanted to help families and gave a basketball or Barbie to every child in the county,” Mackey said. Through the thrift store the Christmas for the Needy program was run.
“I want the parents to feel the compassion of all those in Putnam County who have donated the toys to help them lead a better life,” Mackey said.
There are over 200 families this year who will benefit from Toys for Tots, down from last years 270, according to Mackey. Those who visited the store and received Christmas boxes also had the opportunity to shop in the store for free clothing and housewares.
Silvia Stover, POET employee, said it was her fourth year helping with the program.
“It is a good feeling to see them come out because some of them can’t provide for their families on their own,” Stover said.
Putnam County Optimist Club ran the Toys For Tots collection drive by placing collection boxes at various locations in town. Volunteers from SS. Peter & Paul and Ottawa Elementary School seventh and eighth grade basketball team and POET employees spent Tuesday sorting and organizing the toys by age ranges.
POET of Leipsic employees spent Wednesday assisting parents pick out gift for their children and helped load the items into their vehicles.
Ken Mizeli, POET general manager, and 10 employees volunteered for their 10th year.
“It’s important to give back as we are a part of the community and this is the best way we can to support them,” Mizeli said.
Parents selected four toys each for their children.
Reach Jennifer Peryam at 567-242-0362.