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OMCC gears up for holiday
MARYSVILLE This is a toy story thats runnin out of toys fast.
As the holiday season approaches, volunteers with Operation Marysville Community Christmas are scrambling to get enough gifts for the less fortunate this year. Organizers expect to help more than 1,500 children, providing at least 3,000 toys for patrons of the Marysville Community Food Bank.
That means at least two toys for each child are needed, and while leaders are grateful for the outpouring of donations from the community over the fall season, more are needed, particularly items for infants and teens. And since toys are distributed at the end of the week, OMCC leaders hope people will step up and fill the need by the end of this week.
Each holiday season for the last 20 years OMCC has helped make Christmas a little brighter for the needy with a three-day toy store for food bank patrons. Parents get to shop for free at the store, picking out presents for their children, including stocking stuffers and other goodies.
But several other similar charities have fallen short of their goals and OMCC leaders are asking the community for donations, especially baby items for ages birth to two. Co-chair Bonnie Ramsey said the group would like more diapers, bottles, binkies, baby blankets, and other similar stuff. All items should be new, and money will be accepted, too.
We are in need of toys, Ramsey said, adding that other places such as Toys For Tots havent had a big take either. That problem is combined with a larger pool of clients to serve.
I know we have a lot more kids this year, she said.
At a vacant office building in downtown a handful of workers were busy creating Santas Marysville outpost. Huge tables were lined with toys, divided by age, gender and interest. Entire rooms were dedicated to teens, toddlers, and other age groups, with areas for stocking stuffers and what not. All of the loot was gathered in the ubiquitous red barrels placed around town this fall.
We know theres a lot of kids who are going to be have a happier Christmas, said co-chair Sue Kendall. The community has come together for the kids. Thats why all the members volunteer.
Kendall has been working with OMCC for six years, and she said volunteers work hard to ensure that toys are distributed fairly. The two-toys per kid rule is a guideline, and members use a great deal of discretion when helping parents pick things out, Kendall explained. If one of the toys isnt a top-notch offering or one of the high-demand items, the child will get another selection to even things out.
Standing in the makeshift headquarters near Grove Street, Kendall motioned to stacks of brand new winter coats, fresh from the manufacturer. Zumiez, of Everett, donated the winter wear and when a member sees a teen or parent who looks like they could use a new coat, they get one on the spot. That doesnt count against their toy quota either, she added. There are also lots of childrens books, stuffed animals and arts and crafts supplies.
We play it by ear, Kendall said.
Volunteer Rita Thompson approached her with a tiny teddy bear wrapped in plastic. Just about everybody will get one, and that wont cost them a toy, either, Kendall added.
The main event for many people is the bike lottery at the end of the event. This year due to space considerations it will be held at the municipal courthouse on State Avenue. People get a number and the bikes are given by lot. Due to heavy demand its the most equitable way to distribute them. Most are donated by local service groups such as Marysville Rotary, and the Marysville Kiwanis take bikes from the police lost and found and fix them up. This year there should be about 100 bikes available; Rotary paid for about 70, Kiwanis fixed and refurbished a couple dozen and other donors pitched in a few more.
Thompson and Virginia Spencer were working in a room at the toy store earlier this week, parceling out gifts to last the three days of the giveaway. They try to make sure all the good stuff is spread out over the length of the event to be fair to everybody.
Its a lot of fun, Thompson said.
Especially when you see them coming in thats the neat part, Spencer added.
Marysville City employees paid tribute to their late cohort Lillie Lein by making a major donation to the cause. The long-time resident and former city clerk was the OMCC major domo and organizing wizard who helped mobilize hundreds of people around town each year.
Lein would start shopping for Christmas in February, and often would wrap presents early in the year, forget what was under the wrapping, and have to open them up and start all over. Her soft touch yielded big results for the less fortunate over the years, and co-workers helped gather about $4,000 worth of toys earlier this month in her memory.
The citys employee recognition and appreciation committee aimed to gather 250 new toys in tribute to Lein, or one toy per city employee. They got 217 by the annual employee luncheon Dec. 7, with more coming in afterwards.
That was a tribute to Lein, according to city spokesman Doug Buell, who noted that she was the first to be there and the last to leave, involving her grown children each year.
Every year around November she would get that toy store gleam in her eye, Buell laughed. She would take work off every year to do it. Thats how important it was to her.
OMCC organizers would like local businesses and individuals to know that new, unwrapped toys (and food) for OMCC can be dropped off any time in the red OMCC food barrels placed throughout participating local businesses, government offices and places of worship, or at the food bank, 6518 60th Drive NE. For more information call 360-658-1054. Donations can also be dropped off at the OMCC toy store at 1094 Cedar Avenue until Friday evening, Dec. 21.