YMCA helps spread Christmas joy

12 22 YMCA Toys for Tots
YMCA of Pulaski County Finance Director Holly Whipp (center), Brenda Butler and CEO David Adkins with just a sample of the Toys for Tots items available to help local families this Christmas. (Mike Williams/Patriot Publishing)


Patriot Publishing

By Christmas, the YMCA of Pulaski County will have provided gifts to over 250 children in the county through its participation in this year’s U.S. Marine Corps Toys for Tots Program.

Locally this Christmas, according to YMCA Finance Director Holly Whipp, the YMCA along with the T.G. Howard Center and the Pulaski County Christmas Store participated in the Toys for Tots effort.

Whipp said Tuesday marked the fifth distribution day for the Y.

“We started distributing to families in early December. We had two sessions and it wiped us out. At that point we had served 210 kids. We had to shut down registrations and move everyone who had already signed up to distribution a week later,” Whipp said.

“Toys for Tots brought us some more stuff and at that point they were a little concerned because they felt like donations of toys were down. But after what they collected this past weekend, they said, ‘no, it was just a little delayed,’” she added.

This year, the Y adopted a point system to use to distribute toys to families.

“We adopted a point system this year – similar to the Christmas Store.  We give the parents or grandparents 50 points per child and items are priced accordingly. If they want something big it’s a few more points, but we also give away enough free stuff that everyone gets out of here with a box and a bag,” Whipp explained.

“The items are broken down by age groups. Toys for Tots usually has those parameters set pretty well, so we just follow what they have set up.

“We’ve got infants and toddlers, 5- to 8-year-olds, etc. Toys for Tots goes up to 13 I think, but we’ve been able to get things donated that would go to kids even 15 or older,” Whipp added.

She said while the Christmas Store focuses on parents and grandparents who have custody of kids, the Y has had its focus on the grandparents “because grandparents have the hardest time getting help during Christmas,” Whipp said.

“So, we’ve served a lot of grandparents. Probably I’d say two-thirds are grandparents compared to parents.”

Whipp said the Y this year is able to look at the Christmas Store list and compare the lists to make sure the two organizations aren’t crossing over and helping the same people, “so we were able to spread things out further.”

Whipp said she thought the Y’s distribution was about over before Toys for Tots delivered nine more boxes of items Monday.

“We had eight families on a waiting list so we called all of them yesterday and told them to come in today. We schedule people to ‘shop’ in 30-minute increments.”

She explained stocking stuffers are free as well as books, so points can be saved for toys.

“Honestly, with the amount of stocking stuffers we have this year we’re probably going to end up opening it up to people who want to come by and get a bag of stocking stuffers to do it. Once we know we have served all of those who have signed up.”

All items came from the Toys for Tots effort. Whipp said some toys came directly to the YMCA into the Toys for Tots boxes they have, but the bulk of the items came from around the NRV. Some, she said, even some came in on a truck that was from outside the valley.

Whipp had praise for the YMCA’s staff who she said had all chipped in to help the toy distribution be a success, especially Brenda Butler.

“She is one of our key staff in making this a big success. She has come in and worked almost every day we’ve done the toy distribution,” Whipp said.

“It’s fulfilling,” Butler remarked with a smile. “It’s a good thing for me,” she added.  Butler works in member services at the YMCA and as gym supervisor.

“We appreciate the faith and confidence Toys for Tots had in us to be a distribution site.  There are a lot of people who have stepped up to make this happen, including Holly and Brenda,” said David Adkins, CEO of the YMCA of Pulaski County.

“It’s really been a whole-Y project,” said Whipp.  “Everybody here has spent a lot of time working and organizing and helping.”