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Kent County could lose Toys for Tots program

By Judy Reed

It was the biggest year ever for the Toys for Tots program here in Kent County, according to Kelly VanderLaan, a volunteer with Toys for Tots. But that high point could be a bittersweet end to the program that has brought so much joy to thousands of underprivileged children here in Kent County.

Next year the headquarters for A Col, 1st BN, 24th Marines is moving to Battle Creek, an hour and a half away, which means there will be no Marines here to help with the Marine-based Toys for Tots program. 

So the Kent County Toys for Tots is turning to the community for help.

“It is certainly not unusual for a Toys for Tots program to be run exclusively by a community committee, under the direction and scrutiny of the National Toys for Tots Foundation,” it says in a post on their Facebook page. “Our Committee contains several members who have been doing this program for well over 20 years, and some over 30 years. However, the fact is that we face some huge hurdles to continue this program. The Marine manpower and a permanent home are the biggest hurdles, but there are others. The Marines generate a lot of support that civilians do not. We also struggle with the desperate need for a permanent home. We need a lot of space (10,000 square feet and a loading dock) for a short period of time (8-10 weeks). It has been our biggest challenge every year.”

If you would like to see Toys for Tots continue, share your ideas to help them meet the challenges they are facing. You can send them an email at kentcountytoysfortots@gmail.com or comment on their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/Kent-County-MI-Toys-for-Tots-179441572083482/.

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