Toys for Tots struggles in pandemic

Fewer events being held; toys still being accepted

Pandemic affecting Toys for Tots campaign
Pandemic affecting Toys for Tots campaign

SAN ANTONIO – As Marines and volunteers sorted toys in a Northeast Side warehouse Friday morning, Toys for Tots coordinator Staff Sgt. Hector Jaramillo worried whether there would be enough toys to serve needy families.

“You’d usually see probably about double this,” Jaramillo said.

The annual holiday toy drive helps struggling families, and there’s no shortage of those this year. Jaramillo expects Toys for Tots will provide gifts over the next two weekends for even more than the 9,000 kids they did last year. Getting the gifts to do it, though - typically two toys per child - has been the problem.

Many of the events from which Toys for Tots normally gets a good number of donations -- such as company Christmas parties where employees are invited to bring a gift -- were canceled or never planned at all because of the pandemic. In all, Jaramillo said there were just 23 events this year compared to about 53 last year.

“If we have to cut it down to one toy per child, you know, then we will do that if we have to. But you know, we’re hoping to still continue with the two toys per child,” Jaramillo said Friday morning.

Fortunately, Jaramillo said some of the companies with canceled events made monetary donations, and there were more registered drop-off locations around the community this year.

One such location dropping off toys on Friday brought some hopeful news.

Cavender Auto Group had held an event and also hosted a drop-off location as it typically does, but this year it “at least double” the amount of toys donated, said Sarah Carter.

“We just had such an outpouring, I guess because of COVID, the need is just - it’s kind of, it’s all over the news. You see it. People are affected in their personal lives, and they all want to give. And it was just our way to give back to the community,” Carter said.

As more donations came in Friday - both toys and money - Jaramillo became more optimistic about being able to get each kid their two toys.

“It’s hard to tell, but I think that we’ll be all right in the end. You know, we’re going to make it work,” Jaramillo said.

Many of the Toys for Tots donation locations have already delivered their gifts, but the program is still accepting toys. You can bring new, unwrapped toys to 4848 Perrin Creek Pump on Saturday, Dec. 12 or Sunday, Dec. 13 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. or during the same time frame next weekend, on Friday, Dec. 18 through Sunday, Dec. 20.

About the Authors:

Garrett Brnger is a reporter with KSAT 12.