OMCC Toy Store serves nearly 1,000 families in Marysville

MARYSVILLE — Last year, the Operation Marysville Community Christmas Toy Store served more than 600 families.

This year, OMCC Toy Store volunteers estimate that they’ve served close to 1,000 families on Dec. 17, 18 and 20.

Fortunately for OMCC, JoAnn’s Fabrics was able to give the group a helping hand for the holidays.

“They’ve been so nice,” OMCC Toy Store organizer Bonnie Ramsey said. “JoAnn’s Fabrics moved up north to Smokey Point, but they’d paid the rent on their old place on State Avenue through January so they let us use it free of charge as long as our customers parked in back to let the other businesses keep their parking spots. 15,000 square feet of floor space for free? Yes, please,” she laughed.

At any given time, Ramsey figured there were between 15-20 volunteers on hand to help Toy Store customers shop for what they were looking for. Although she praised the community for coming through with an abundance of stuffed animals and stocking stuffers, she noted that OMCC will still wind up approximately $1,000 over budget this year.

“It’ll come,” Ramsey said. “This community is generous. We got a lot more fishing poles this year, and TVs and other large items too. The Legos are always popular, just because you can build anything out of them. We usually get an influx of candy, but that didn’t come, so we bought it out of our own pockets this year.”

Annette Berg enthusiastically expressed her appreciation for the Toy Store. A first-time customer, Berg’s husband was laid off eight months ago and she’s been searching for a job for the past year.

“It’s awesome that these people have such big hearts,” Berg said, as she searched for just the right gifts for her child. “It’s all about the kids.”

Kat Castle is a stay-at-home mom and a fellow first-time Toy Store shopper who not only needed to get gifts for her own sons, aged one and two years, but also her brother and sister, who are 13-year-old twins.

“My husband is the only one in a house full of 10 people who can find work,” Castle said. “There’s him, me, our kids, my brother and sister, our roommate who has nowhere else to stay, and then our other friend, plus her boyfriend and their kid.”

She laughed as she asked Toy Store volunteers if there were any toy cars left, observing that “all boys just love anything with wheels,” and confessed that she had no idea what she would have done for gifts if not for the Toy Store.

“It’s really helpful in these bad economic times,” Castle said. “It’s amazing that so many people have donated. I’m glad know there’s help out there.”

At the age of 19, Jerad Clawson is already coping with a host of adult responsibilities. Clawson came into the Toy Store with his wheelchair-bound grandmother, Kathryn Becker, whom he’s trying to help support, along with his little sister, his two cousins, his grandfather and his father, the latter of whom is disabled.

“He’s been in the hospital with pancreatitis,” Clawson said. “He’s had surgery because he’s got acid leaking out of his stomach and he’s had to have a kidney transplant. A couple of months ago they gave him 48 hours to live and put him into a coma. He almost didn’t pull through.”

Clawson himself has been unemployed for a year, unable find work in the welding field even after receiving training. He likewise voiced his gratitude to the Toy Store volunteers and donors for their efforts on his behalf.

“It’s great that they’re doing this,” Clawson said. “There are a lot of people who just couldn’t afford these gifts otherwise. It’s really rough out there. But the opportunity to actually have a Christmas? It couldn’t get any better than this.”

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