FAIRMONT — Black Friday is normally marked by dozens of volunteers giving out toys to Marion County parents at the Marion County Election Center through the county’s annual Christmas Toy Shop.
However, this year, the organization is pushing back the distribution date to Dec. 5 to ensure volunteers have enough time between the election and the giveaway to get everything prepared.
“The biggest reason we’re changing the date is because of the election,” said Butch Tennant, president of the Marion County Christmas Toy Shop. “We usually try to get in there on the 12th to set up. This year we’re afraid we won’t be able to get in there with enough time.”
Chad Norman, administrative assistant for Marion County Schools, helps ensure students get registered for the Toy Shop each year.
“We’re excited to be participating in the Christmas Toy Shop again this year,” Norman said. “We are encouraging students, parents and the community to support the Toy Shop. We know that money and donations are turned around and given directly to Marion County students who are in need.”
In previous years, students received registration forms at school to give to their parents, who would fill out information as to how many children they have, their ages and their genders. This year, the students who are attending school in-person are receiving the forms to take home, but parents can also register through the Marion County Family Resource Network or the Connecting Link.
“We are going to have people register through the FRN website,” Norman said. “And we are sending forms home to the students who are attending school.”
The coronavirus pandemic changed the way toy shop organizers plan to raise money and distribute the gifts.
Last year, the Toy Shop introduced Christmas stocking cards that could be purchased for $1 and displayed in different buildings and businesses that were participating in the effort. That initiative will continue this year, but the Toy Shop also introduced new Christmas ornaments for $5 that will also be sold to raise funds.
On toy distribution day, Tennant said the registered parents will drive through the Election Center to pick up pre-packed bags of gifts, rather than wait outside in a line to eventually pick out gifts with the help of a volunteer. He also said people can walk up if they don’t have a car to receive bags as well.
“We’ll have pre-packed bags with the age of a child on it,” Tennant said. “Everything will be in a bag and we’ll have them marked. We’ll line them up through the parking lot and through Palatine Park, and they’ll come through right through the building, they’ll give us a ticket and they won’t have to even get out of their vehicle.”
This is the 12th year of the annual Christmas Toy Shop, and since the beginning, it has been the organization’s mission to give every kid in Marion County a good Christmas. Tennant said this remains the goal this year, despite the slight change in format.
Distribution day for the Toy Shop is Saturday, Dec. 5 from 3-6 p.m. at Marion County Election Center, and parents can get registration forms through the Marion County Family Resource Network or the Connecting Link.