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OMCC toy store serves families in need
MARYSVILLE — Families in need have had an opportunity to give their kids have a happy holiday season, as Operation Marysville Community Christmas has opened its annual toy store Dec. 18-20.
In spite of snowfall levels that shut down local schools, the OMCC toy store's volunteers still showed up to the Healthsouth Rehabilitation Center of Marysville to escort parents and guardians in picking out presents for their children, with separate rooms and tables set aside for several different age groups of boys and girls.
Ray Damico was one of the parents who needed a hand in making his family's holiday happen, and he was so grateful to OMCC and the Marysville Community Food Bank for their assistance that he was more than willing to appear in The Marysville Globe, to spotlight how much those organizations aid the community.
Damico has been out of work since suffering a back injury, and his wife, who works in construction by cleaning newly built houses, has seen her weekly hours cut in half, from 40 to 20 hours.
"I'm waiting for Social Security to kick in, but that takes forever," Damico said, as volunteer Michaela Caldwell guided him through the areas where he could choose presents for his two sons, aged 7 and 11. "With two boys, bills aren't cheap, especially not in this economy. It definitely helps out a lot."
Damico expressed pride in his sons, both Marysville students, as he considered which presents would suit each one the best. His 7-year-old enjoys sports and professional wrestling, while his 11-year-old has become a hot rod and classic car enthusiast.
"They're into radio-controlled cars and Pokemon cards," Damico said. "They also like video games, but I already told them they're not getting an Xbox 360."
Damico said that he doesn't know what he would have done this year without the Food Bank and OMCC.
"I've sold all my tools and pawned just about everything that I have," Damico said. "Without this, my kids wouldn't have a great Christmas."
Caldwell has been involved in OMCC since her freshman year of high school, but as the years have gone by, she's been able to take a more active role in its toy store.
"My mom works at one of the middle schools and she found out about [the OMCC toy store] five years ago," said Caldwell, now a freshman in college. "The lady who used to run it has kept in touch with us to tell us when and where it's being held each year. I used to just shop for toys at the stores, buying them with donated money for our toy store, but last year, I started helping families shop through our toy store."
Caldwell has appreciated connecting with those in need on a personal level, by hearing them share stories about their struggles.
"This morning, we had one lady who was so excited about the presents that she got that she said she'd be here tomorrow to help other people shop," Caldwell said Dec. 18. "It's so cool to be able to affect so many people's lives. You don't realize how many people are hurting until you see their numbers."
Those numbers have gone up since last year, according to OMCC toy store representative Bonnie Ramsey, who estimated that last year's 1,350 children grew to approximately 1,800 who are being served by the toy store this year. While donations were slow in coming in the months leading up to the holiday season, she praised the community for rushing to pitch in since the start of December.
"We've had high school students and young kids collecting for us, and just about every organization in the community contributing, from businesses and schools to youth groups and churches," Ramsey said. "The community must have sensed that there was more need, because they've really come together to support us."
Ramsey pointed out that OMCC serves both Marysville and Lakewood, and admitted that she wondered whether the toy store and the Food Bank would be able to fill those communities' needs this year.
"I had tears in my eyes, I was so surprised," Ramsey said. "We had so many teens who had already stood out in the cold and the rain to help out, who showed up again this week."
The OMCC Christmas food baskets are being distributed Dec. 20, 22 and 23. For more information, call the Food Bank at 360-658-1054.