Toy drive aids many around the holiday season

STEP accepts donations until Dec. 14


Noah Orloff

Toy donations that were donated to STEP for the holidays. Toys will be collected at STEP until Dec. 14 and then will be given out at Peace Presbyterian Church to those in need.

Noah Orloff

St. Louis Park Emergency Program volunteer and community relations coordinator Mari-Claire Dart said she believes wintertime offers a different type of atmosphere that can help bring joy to both donors and those receiving donations.

“There’s a certain kind of magic that happens during the holiday season and people want to get into that spirit, so for people who are donating or donors, it makes them feel good,” Dart said. “For the clients who are receiving them or the people who are receiving them, they’re able to choose what their child might want as a toy for the holiday season.”

Sophomore St. Louis Park Emergency Program (STEP) volunteer Audrey Long said the toy drive is positive for everybody involved.

“It makes me feel good. And also, helping the community is just a good thing and I know people there and they’re really great people,” Long said. “I think it’s helping people on a really basic level, food and clothes and toys are things that everyone needs just to be happy.”

Dart said the holiday toy drive lasts around a month.

“We’re always accepting toys, but I’d say we started getting toys in two weeks ago around the first of November,” Dart said. “Deadline to bring in toys is Friday, Dec. 14 at noon.”

According to Dart, toys have to be in their original packaging, preferably with a receipt.

“The toys need to be new and in their boxes,” Dart said. “We prefer to have the receipt attached just because the way we organize the toy drive is based on the cost.”

Sophomore Danny Walsh said STEP’s actions can establish unity within St. Louis Park.

“I think it brings the community together,” Walsh said. “Obviously it aids people (who) aren’t able to get toys, but it also brings the community together in helping these people.”

Dart said as volunteer and community relations coordinator, her work includes contacting potential donors and volunteers.

“My job is to get volunteers to help to sort through the toys the week before, and then to help the clients shop for their toys during the actual distribution. My job is also to speak with community members about holding toy donation drives at their organizations or their faith communities,” Dart said. “Everyone loves toys for the holidays.”

According to Dart, various age groups benefit from STEP’s toy contributions.

“We distribute the toys to St. Louis Park residents and they are ages infant to 18,” Dart said. “I think ages 11 and up get gift cards and all the other kids get toys.”  

Walsh said he will likely contribute to the drive.

“I’ll probably donate this year,” Walsh said. “I think that it will spread Christmas cheer to folks that don’t always get Christmas cheer spread to them.”

According to Dart, toys are donated to STEP and are transported to a larger space for delivery.

“People can drop off the toys here at STEP,” Dart said. “The distribution is done at Peace Presbyterian Church.”

Dart said STEP is working to make sure those who lack toys are able to receive them during a potentially hard time.

“The main goal would be for everyone who needs to have toys this holiday season will get them and will be able to have a variety of choices to choose from,” Dart said. “The holidays are always a very difficult time for people who are already struggling financially, and so this just kind of lifts the burden of buying toys for their child.”

Long said she is proud of the work being done in the community.

“I’m glad there’s people getting help on the most basic needs so they can start to build up and get more stable on their feet,” Long said.

According to Dart, STEP provides an opportunity for people to decide which toy they like, rather than being assigned one.

“With our program they can actually choose the toys,” Dart said. “So, we don’t give them a toy based on their child’s age, they are able to shop for their child. They are able to know what their child likes and pick.”