GREENVILLE — Last year, 1,264 Montcalm County kids enjoyed a Merry Christmas, thanks to the efforts of Jennifer Bouck and her fellow Toys for Tots volunteers. Bouck, who coordinates the program county-wide, hopes to do at least that well with this year’s effort.
Though exact numbers have yet to be correlated, Bouck says there are already well over 1,000 families relying on the generosity of area business, service groups and individual donors for a happy holiday. And those are just the families that have “pre-registered” for the program; another 15 or more families likely will stop by after those are serviced on Toys for Tots distribution day at 9 a.m. Dec. 14 at the Montcalm County Fairgrounds.
This year, Bouck used public libraries throughout the county as collection sites for the pre-registration forms, since those facilities are accessible to everyone.
“Last year we went through about 1,000 registration forms, but I didn’t have a complete count,” Bouck explained. “Last year the number was high, but this year it’s even higher.”
To help raise money to provide toys for so many of the area’s economically disadvantaged, Bouck has courted several corporate sponsors, including Mid-Michigan Motorplex, the Greenville Eagles, Greenville Tool and Die, Blake Hollenbeck, Ed Koehn, Meijer, Ace Hardware and Marshall’s Tent Rental.
“My hat’s really off to them all,” Bouck said.
Many of these sponsors present the program with checks and toys totaling thousands of dollars each year and without their involvement, Toys for Tots would not be able to service so many of the county’s needy children, Bouck added. Some of the sponsors, such as the Eagles and Mid-Michigan Motorplex, host several fundraising events each year to raise money for the program.
Bouck also noted that the program in Montcalm County is administered solely by volunteers.
“No one is paid,” Bouck said. “I have about seven truly key volunteers that have helped with the planning. On distribution day I hope to have maybe 40 volunteers. That’s been a bit of a challenge over the years. I don’t beg people to volunteer because we all have families and it is a lot of work. In the end, I’d rather have fewer volunteers who are really dedicated. I couldn’t possibly do this without all the people that help me.”
Even the children of volunteers get in on the act, such as Bouck’s own daughter, Kenedi, who accompanied her mother and a few friends to the Greenville Meijer Wednesday evening to help pick out toy for Toys for Tots recipients.
“It’s fun to help,” Kenedi said.
Volunteers and corporate sponsors are only part of the formula for success, however; just as important are the donations made by individuals at the 100-plus collection sites throughout the county. Collection barrels have been placed at many area businesses and schools, but Bouck is worried that the short collection time — two weeks this year as opposed to the three last year — may adversely impact the number of toys the program takes in.
“Registration is up, but donations are down,” Bouck said. “We are extremely low low, donation-wise as of today. Last year there were three weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas; this year there’s only two.”
Bouck is hoping area residents will step up and make their donations in time for this year’s distribution day. Cash donations also may be made to the Toys for Tots PO Box at: Toys for Tots Coordinator, Montcalm County, PO Box 554, Greenville, MI 48838.