Bringing Christmas to the Kids: Kootenai County Toys for Tots fills the hearts of many

Raniel Coeur d'Alene Living Local Leave a Comment

By Patty Hutchens | Article Provided by Coeur d’Alene Living Local

It’s the time of year when stores are filled with people shopping for the holiday season and children eagerly await their chance to tell Santa exactly what is on their wish list this year. But for many families, it is a stressful time as they lack the resources to provide much more than food and shelter for their families. Thanks to Toys for Tots, families in Kootenai County and around the country no longer have to deal with the stress of how to make their child’s Christmas magical.

Anita Parisot is the local community organizer for Toys for Tots in Kootenai County and is responsible for the overall leadership, management and reporting for Toys for Tots in our county. She is the first civilian to take the position, as it was previously conducted by The Pappy Boyington Detachment #966 for many years.

The National Toys for Tots foundation has been operating since 1947, with Kootenai County Toys for Tots being established over 20 years ago. Sponsored by the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation, last year Kootenai County served 935 families, which included 1,932 children. It is a program for children 12 and younger who are from low-income families on public assistance or are members of active duty military families.

According to Anita, the biggest need locally is for boys and girls ages 8 to 12. However, there is a $30 limit, and many of the toys that age group desires are out of that price range.

“We’re also struggling with the closing of Toys ‘R Us. They were our biggest supplier of toys,” said Anita of the obstacles they face this year. “I am hoping local toy stores in the area and stores such as WalMart and Target will step in to help.”

She shares that last year, Figpickels Toy Emporium in Coeur d’Alene provided Toys for Tots with $5,000 of STEM toys for the 8- to 12-year-old girls, as they were aware Toys for Tots was running low. And they did that in just four short hours!

When it comes to donations, Anita said Toys for Tots is only able to accept new, unwrapped toys. They cannot accept donations of clothing.

One of the goals Anita and her group have for this year is to maximize the resources available in Kootenai County for families. “We would like to partner with other area charities and provide toys for the families they serve. This will allow them to spend the precious dollars they receive on necessities like clothes, boots, coats, food and more for their families,” she said.

Another goal Anita envisioned when she took on her role as the local community organizer was to have the community, especially the kids, participate in the registering, packing and distributing of toys.

“Toys for Tots is one of the few charities in which entire families can volunteer. Last year we had whole families who would arrive ready to help. Our youngest elf was only 3, and she worked harder than some of the grownups!” said Anita. “At times, we had babies sleeping in strollers lined up in the warehouse while their mamas packed toys. It was a sight I will never forget.”

Anita’s own three kids are a part of the campaign, from entertaining the kids while their parents are registering for toys to packing and handing out the toys. “It has been a very important lesson in humility and gratitude for all of us,” she said.

And the intrinsic rewards one receives from donating their time or resources can be felt in the many wonderful stories that are shared.

“On the last day of the campaign last year we got a call for help,” recalls Anita. “A mom was running from an abusive husband in Oregon. She and her five children arrived in Coeur d’Alene with only the clothes on their backs. We gave her a shopping cart and said, ‘Go have fun!’ By the time we were done, her front and back seat and trunk were full of toys and books. Lots of happy tears were shed that morning.”

Information to Donate or to be a Recipient

Whether you are a family in need or would like to donate to the local Toys for Tots Campaign, you can visit the national website at ToysForTots.org and select “Find a Local Campaign” tab, select Idaho and Kootenai County and you will find their website. People can also email Anita at [email protected]

All Toys for Tots activities this year will take place at the Kootenai County Fairgrounds, Building No. 19. “I would like to give a shout out to the Fairgrounds board, Alexia Jordan and her team for welcoming and taking such good care of us,” said Anita.

Anita is hoping to increase community participation in the volunteer elf brigade this year! Below are details of volunteer opportunities:

Toy Registration

November 5 – 8, November 12 – 15, November 26 – 29

Monday – Thursday, 10am – 4pm

Toy Packing

December 4 – December 22

Monday – Friday, 5 – 7pm

Saturday & Sunday, 10am – 4pm

Toy Distribution

December 10 – 22

Monday – Friday, 5 – 7pm

Saturday & Sunday, 10am – 4pm

Online Toy Requests

Families may now request toys via local Toys for Tots website

  • You will receive a numbered confirmation email
  • Online orders will be numbered/packed/stored separately from in-person requests
  • You must bring email confirmation, ID, and proof of qualification to pick up toys

Note without all of these, you will not be eligible to pick up toys.

Let’s help make a difference in the lives of our children this holiday season and spread the magic!

About the Author

Raniel