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Holiday toy store serves those in need in Marysville

Marysville holiday toy store volunteer Christina Leslie examines a girls’ tea set during distributions to needy families on Dec. 18. - Kirk Boxleitner
Marysville holiday toy store volunteer Christina Leslie examines a girls’ tea set during distributions to needy families on Dec. 18.
— image credit: Kirk Boxleitner

MARYSVILLE — The holiday toy store that was started to serve clients of the Marysville Community Food Bank has expanded to serve a broader base of shoppers in the community, but its number of customers this year seems to be holding steady from last year’s total, according to Bonnie Ramsey, who’s long co-chaired the toy store with fellow veteran volunteer Sue Kendall.

“It’s not just the Marysville Community Food Bank,” Ramsey said on Dec. 18, the first of two days during which the toy store served registered clients this year, with crews averaging roughly 20 volunteers an hour, out of a total of as many as three dozen volunteers. “Allen Creek Community Church’s Seeds of Grace food bank has also started referring their clients to our toy store. We’ve registered families through churches and even school counselors. It’s not a bunch of miscellaneous toy stores scattered throughout the community anymore. We’re all working together now, and becoming one home.”

Ramsey estimated that the toy store would provide toys for about 1,100 children, “pretty much the same as last year,” and thanked the host of organizations whose support has remained constant throughout the years, including Zumiez, which has furnished the toy store with coats and blankets for children and adults alike for a number of years.

“The Rotary is always a huge sponsor, and the Kmart and Fred Meyer stores helped us shop for toys and gave us big discounts,” Ramsey said. “I feel like the entire community deserves some credit, because offices throughout Marysville have contributed, including local chiropractic and dental clinics, which gave us candy to hand out, and the Soroptimist and Kiwanis clubs, which have served up hot chocolate.”

While Target donated a number of toys, Costco provided larger items that Ramsey explained would be raffled off. She likewise credited Vans of the Seattle Premium Outlets with giving several pairs of shoes, and noted that “entire neighborhoods” within the city had organized their own collection drives for this year’s toy store.

“We even got a Christmas tree from Rotary, which we’ll be Saran-Wrapping to use again for other community events,” Ramsey laughed. “The only thing I don’t like about naming our supporters is that I know I’m going to leave a lot of people out who deserve recognition.”

While the number of clients remained relatively stable from last year, a few new families found themselves shopping at the toy store this year, many of them for the same reasons. Both Darren Shales and Mikki Root are stay-at-home parents who care for their children, and came to the toy store for the first time this year because of how hard it is to celebrate the holidays on their spouses’ salaries.

“Our oldest is out of the house, but we’ve still got our 8-year-old boy, whose birthday on Dec. 23 is back-to-back with Christmas,” Shales said. “How do you afford another set of presents when you’re already broke? Times are so tough that I couldn’t even buy coal for his stocking,” he joked.

Shales remained in a jovial mood as he was guided through the aisles of toys by city of Marysville Recreation Coordinator Andrea Kingsford, but even as he insisted that “somehow, we still would have been able to swing it” to provide a traditional Christmas celebration for his family, he also spoke of selling car parts on Craigslist to help make ends meet.

“In a single-income household, there’s not a lot left over,” Shales said, before he gushed over how toy brands such as Legos and Transformers have changed since his own youth. “I’m so happy I landed in Marysville. I couldn’t have asked for a better community. You guys are awesome,” he told Kingsford.

Root is raising four children, ranging in age from 3-11 years old, two of them adopted, and like many parents, she’s facing the Catch-22 of providing for her kids.

“It’s hard when you only have one person working in your household, but if I got a job, my paycheck would just be going to cover daycare anyway, so I might as well stay at home to be there for the kids,” Root said. “Our oldest boy wanted a longboard, but fortunately, my brother came through for him.”

Both Root and Christina Leslie, the volunteer who helped Root shop for her three girls, were impressed by their first experiences with the toy store this year.

“It’s really nicely organized, so it’s not just chaos,” Root said, as she picked out a tea set for one of her daughters. “I love that you have on-site daycare here, because otherwise, all four of my kids would be following along right behind me.”

“One of the reasons why I do this is because I was raised on the other side, where those folks are now,” Ramsey said, as she pointed to the line of toy store customers. “I had people who were there for me, from my neighborhood and my church, so I want to pass on the message that we need to help people in need. It’s not just about giving; it’s also about learning to serve others.”

 

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