Toy drive gives youth a better Christmas

December 8, 2009

By Chantelle Lusebrink

As you’re making your list and checking it twice, save a few spaces on it for the Issaquah Food and Clothing Bank.It needs help this season to make the holidays bright for everyone in our community.

To help, one local woman has set up a toy collection drive at Pickering Barn from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Dec. 13 to help you spread the holiday cheer to local children.

“I love the work the food bank does,” said Suzie Kuflik, a resident and volunteer with Issaquah Valley Elementary School. “There are a lot of families taken care of through the food bank’s program, but a lot more will need help closer to Christmas, and Christmas is all about the kids.

“Not everyone can adopt an entire family, so I wanted to have a community-wide toy drive instead.”

This isn’t the first community drive Kuflik has organized.

In the past few months, she and the school have organized a warm coat and clothing drive, and an essentials drive, which collected new underwear and socks and personal hygiene items, like shampoo, for the food and clothing bank.

“We live in a fairly affluent area and I think people don’t realize that there are people in our community that need help,” Kuflik said. “They see Talus and our more affluent areas, but unless they go to the side streets, where there are huge apartment complexes, they don’t have any idea of the real demographics of our downtown area.”

“We have a lot of people that care in this community,” said Cherie Meier, executive director of the food and clothing bank. “We are very proud and feel very fortunate.”

So far, there haven’t been any toys dropped off at the clothing bank, Meier said.

“Everyone can give one toy or has something they can give,” Kuflik said. “I really want the kids to wake up and get something they want, to have a couple things, because clothes, for kids, aren’t a present for them.”

Officials said they’re hoping that being near Costco and other retailers will help bring in more donations.

Games, electronics, gift cards, action figures — officials said they’ll take any new gift to give to children whose families have fallen on hard times.

That weekend, food and clothing bank officials will also collect baskets from the community, organizations and individuals that chose to adopt a family.

So far, many of the area’s families who asked to participate in this year’s adopt-a-family program have been adopted.

“Our schools have been great,” she said. “Normally, we’d only have 350 families sponsored at this time, but right now, we have 368 and I would say at least 90 percent of those have been through the schools.”

However, as Christmas approaches, there will be more people asking and needing help each day, she said.

Meier estimated that another 200 families could come forward for assistance in the next few weeks.

“It’s really going to be for the families in our community who come to us at the last minute, those who thought they would be doing better than they are or have just moved here,” she said. “That way, we will still be able to give kids presents at Christmas.”

If there are toys left over, after every family has been served, the remainder of them will go toward the food bank’s birthday fund, Meier said.

They also need gifts and supplies for seniors, Meier said.

“We have a lot of them,” she said. “They are very proud and always think someone else needs it more than them.”

If you don’t have enough in your holiday budget to purchase new items, then think about purchasing a few extra supplies, like toilet paper, shampoo, cold medicines and lotions. You could also go through your closets at home to find gently used warm clothing and coats.

Meier said they are also welcoming used camping equipment, including tents, tarps, battery operated lanterns and camping stoves. Those things are needed for people in the community who are homeless or are living in shelters, she said.

Many of the items will also help them prepare for the influx of residents that will come to Issaquah next month with Tent City 4.

“Last time they were here, there were nearly 60 families,” Meier said. “Everything helps, because we will have more people here in need.”

Chantelle Lusebrink: 392-6434, ext. 241, or clusebrink@isspress.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

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