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Making Christmas Merry for More Than 1,000 Local Children

The Toy Chest Drive provides presents to families in need with help from community volunteers and donations. With more than 25 drop sites in more than seven cities across the Hopkins and Minnetonka area, ResourceWest makes it easy to give back this holida

A local family resource center is making it possible for more than 1,000 kids in the area to have a Merry Christmas this season.

ResourceWest, the Hopkins Minnetonka Family Resource Center, hosts the Toy Chest Drive, a seasonal program that has provided presents for families in need for 18 years.

“I want my kids to have something to unwrap under the tree,” said Amanda, a mother of three elementary-age children from Hopkins. Amanda is one of the many parents who signed up for the program this year due to financial difficulty. While in the process of moving, Amanda said her storage unit flooded and all of their belongings were ruined.

“We have to start over completely,” she said. “Everything we accumulated for years on end is just destroyed.”

Budgeting to buy beds, blankets and other basic items left no money for the holidays this year, so she turned to ResourceWest.

“It’s just such a wonderful program because it’s here to help so many people and unexpected things happen,” Amanda said. “I have given toys to programs like this in the past, but this year, I’m using it.”

Judy Elling, the executive director for ResourceWest said the struggling economy has impacted some of the people who have previously contributed to the Toy Chest.

“We are getting people in who have donated in the past, who are now depending on the program because they have been laid off, their hours have been cut back or their energy bills have gone up,” Elling said. “We know when they are back on their feet, they will be helping us out again, but right now we are happy to help them.”

Families that qualify for the free or reduced lunch program at school and live in one of the seven cities the resource center serves (Minnetonka, Hopkins, Shorewood, Excelsior, Deephaven, Woodland and Greenwood) also qualify for the Toy Chest Drive. Starting Monday, ResourceWest will walk three families through their program every ten minutes all week long.

While the registration started more than a week ago, there is still time to sign up for the program by calling the center at 952-988-5350. Elling said she the program has been around since ResourceWest opened its doors in 1993 and anticipates it will help provide presents to more than 1,200 children, ages 0 up to seniors in high school this year.

Unlike other toy drives, ResourceWest has created their program to allow parents to pick out the right gifts for their children prior to Christmas. Each family gets to walk through the Toy Chest and choose one small toy, one larger toy and stocking stuffers for each child. Elling said they will also be giving out stuffed animals, used books and a bonus item for each family, like wrapping paper or Christmas décor.

Each year, hundreds of community members donate toys for all ages and volunteer their time to make this program possible.

Alysa Horsman has been helping out ResourceWest since August and has been coming in almost every day of the week to help organize and set up the toys for the drive.

“It’s amazing how many people are stepping up in the community to help out,” Horsman said about the toy donations. “This program is definitely helping to make Christmas possible for so many in need.”

ResourceWest is still accepting small (under $15) and large ($15 and up) gifts of all kinds – toys, beauty products, sporting goods, books, games, clothing, etc. – for all ages, but they are really in need of gifts for teens. Pro sports apparel, sleds, curling irons and straighteners and beauty items are all popular ideas for toys Elling suggested.

To find out what toys ResourceWest has an immediate need for, check out their Twitter or Facebook sites and for a complete list of drop sites. To find out how to volunteer, call Rosemaris Campos at 952-988-5352.

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