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'It's the Snail Express': Toys For Tots Donations struggle to keep up with record registrations

Donations are slow to come in and leaders fear if the pace doesn't pick up, they won't be able to meet the record-breaking demand.

KENT COUNTY, Mich. — Kent County Toys for Tots is averaging nearly a thousand new registrations each week. With ten days left before registrations closes on Dec. 8, they are on pace to not only break their registration record, but shatter it.

Last year, Toys for Tots distributed toys to 9,500 kids in Kent County. The all-time record is just under 11,000 in 2010, but as of Nov. 28, more than 10,200 kids are registered for this year. Problem is, donations are slow to come in and leaders fear if the pace doesn't pick up, they won't be able to meet the record-breaking demand.

"People are having a harder time making ends meet. The need is there, but we also need the people who are able to give to help the people that are struggling," said Jeff DeJonge, Kent County Toys For Tots Coordinator. "Without the community support, kids wont have a gift to open this holiday season."

The lack of donations is being felt around West Michigan. The Lakeshore chapter of Toys for Tots covers Ottawa, Allegan and Van Buren counties, and Coordinator Ed Lopez says they are falling substantially behind typical years.

"It's the snail express," Lopez said. At this time in a normal year, his team would have distributed 20,000 toys through their partner organizations. This year they've only been able to send between 13,000 and 14,000.

"So far, monetary donations are down considerably from past years," said Muskegon County Toys for Tots Coordinator Lisa Clendenon. "That’s what we fall back on if we don’t have enough toys collected throughout the season to go out and purchase toys for the age categories we need them in."

Clendenon, Lopez and DeJonge all shared the same sentiment — worried but not fearful. Total gift donations aren't a number they can quantify until all the collection bins have been picked up.

RELATED: 2021 Toys for Tots drop-off locations in West Michigan

"Its too early for us to tell," Clendenon said. "Some places have already called for multiple pickups, others that we would expect to call for pickups we have not heard from."

"Giving Tuesday is coming up, hopefully we can get some donations," DeJonge said. "There’s nothing like seeing a smile on your children’s face at Christmas, the last thing I’d want is a child not have something to open."

Money donated on the Toys for Tots foundation page goes straight to the foundation, so if you want your donation to stay in your county, be sure to specify that information. Contributions are also more easily processed if they are sent directly to the county's Toys for Tots.

Find your closest drop-off location here


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