FISH toy drive putting Christmas presents under trees of 600 children
Volunteers wheeled wagons teeming with toys from a warehouse Thursday and piled them into cars lined up in the parking lot. By the time the FISH Food Bank’s drive-up event ends Friday, they will have delivered presents to brighten 600 kids’ Christmases.
The FISH Toy Drive for low-income families and those facing financial hardships had been held at a fire station until COVID-19 forced it outside last year. The pandemic also doubled the number requesting gifts.
“Our motto the last two years because of COVID is if you ask for toys, we give you toys,” Betsy Cheney, the drive’s volunteer leader, said from her Soundview Park warehouse post. Before her rose a mountain of teddy bears, and all sizes of trikes and bikes. Behind, toys organized by type and age appropriateness rested on tables to the left. Bagged playthings awaited pickup on the right.
Requests are made on paper or, beginning last year, online. Pick-ups are scheduled alphabetically by last name.
“It means a lot,” said Heather Martin of Gig Harbor, a mother of five, while waiting in her car. “I really appreciate it. If it wasn’t for these guys, my kids wouldn’t be having a great Christmas. I want to say thank you very much. I’m very grateful, and Merry Christmas!”
Children don’t receive one present, they get a bagful. Besides bikes, Legos and art items are popular, Cheney said. Teens want makeup, jewelry, skateboards, electronics and coffee. A handful asked for play ovens and dollhouses. One was donated, the others Cheney garnered from buy-nothing sites and Craigslist.
“Some families don’t even ask for toys, just warm clothes,” Cheney said. “We’ve had quite a few homeless families staying in cars or with friends for a bit.”
Other requests have been for car seats, cribs, high chairs, diapers and wipes.
“When you get those, you get pretty emotional,” Cheney said.
Donors can now go on Amazon.com FISH page to fulfill individual requests or choose from suggestions by age group.
Toys come from throughout the community. The Lions Club, with drop-off locations coordinated with 44 stores, is the top contributor, but toys are collected by schools, neighborhood associations, book clubs, the yacht club and many others. The lighted car parade Saturday will also be accepting toys that will become the start of next year’s drive.
“We so appreciate the community, Cheney said. “Without them this wouldn’t be possible.”
Kathy Cummings was among more than a dozen volunteers scurrying around the warehouse Thursday.
“I am so honored to be able to give back and get to know my new community,” she said. “I saw so many tears in the eyes of mothers this morning. They couldn’t have had a Christmas without the entire community.”