By Stefanie Donahue
Volunteers are getting an early start on collecting donations for the Community Toy Store, Blaine and Birch Bay’s newest charitable program.
Established in Bellingham about 10 years ago, the program helps low-income parents afford new toy and clothing gifts cards for their kids during the holiday season. Volunteers collect donations during the year and put the items up for sale at a 75-90 percent discount in December. Two gifts can be chosen per child – or one gift card per teen – and gift wrapping stations will be available on-site.
Volunteers from Blaine and Birch Bay have participated in the Bellingham-based program for the last six years and recently decided to offer the Community Toy Store locally. It will replace the former Giving Tree Program, which for several years allowed donors to select tags with individualized gift ideas to deliver to recipients in the area.
In May, the Community Assistance Program board of directors voted to incorporate the Community Toy Store into its array of services and provide it with 501(c)3 status. The program also received endorsements from the Blaine Chamber of Commerce and Birch Bay Chamber of Commerce as well as local businesses and nonprofits.
Hopeful for a smooth start to its first year, local volunteers announced that they will begin accepting the following donations this month: new, quality toys, games, book sets and sports equipment that require no batteries in the $10-$50 price range as well as $25 gift cards for teens to clothing stores, such as Old Navy, Aeropostale and American Eagle.
Donors can drop off items in collection boxes located at the Birch Bay Village main office, pro shop and clubhouse now through Monday, October 15 or at the Semiahmoo clubhouse between Monday, October 1 and Monday, October 15. Individuals who do not live in those communities and want to donate should contact Becky Grasher at 360/332-6922.
Regular donation collection will run from Thursday, November 15 through Friday, December 7.
“Your donation of toys will bless not only the children receiving them, but also the parents who are given the gift of dignity and the joy of choosing gifts for their own children, as well as the organizations that receive the proceeds and the families that they work with,” read a statement from the organization.
To participate in the Community Toy Store, families must live within the Blaine school district, qualify for free or reduced lunch and cannot be receiving gift assistance from other sources. The school district’s Family Service Center will handle referrals and registration will soon be available online at blainecap.org.
The application deadline is Monday, November 26. Individuals who meet the eligibility guidelines will receive a postcard in the mail during the first week of December. Vouchers will be available for families who are in need of additional assistance.
The program will take place from 6 to 8:30 p.m. on Thursday, December 13 to Friday, December 14 as well as 9 a.m.-5 p.m. on Saturday, December 15 at the Cost Cutter Shopping Center, unit 280.
Proceeds from the toy sales will be donated to nonprofits who work with families in the community; volunteers with the program have yet to determine a recipient.
Gift donations should not be gift wrapped and monetary donations are accepted. For a full list of gift items, visit blainecap.org. For information about the Birch Bay Village drop boxes, contact Susie Walker at 360/922-7359 or about the Semiahmoo drop box, contact Victoria Wilhelmsen at firstname.lastname@example.org.