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Sugar Grove toy, book drive nets hundreds of gifts

SUGAR GROVE – A slew of local volunteers donated enough new books and toys to the Between Friends Food Pantry of Sugar Grove to help at least 100 families this holiday season.

Rachel Muckerheide, a Sugar Grove resident who organized the toy and book drive, said she has done similar fundraisers in the past, including one for Mutual Ground, a domestic violence and sexual assault agency. She said this year, she wanted to do a toy and book drive through the local food pantry.

“I wanted to do something for the pantry because it’s right here in our backyard,” she said.

From Nov. 29 through Friday, boxes were set up at seven Sugar Grove locations, including people’s homes. Muckerheide estimates that 300 to 350 toys and books were dropped off at the food pantry Sunday and will be distributed to families through the holidays.

Melisa Taylor, who volunteers for the food pantry, said the amount of gifts they received was overwhelming “in a good way.”

“I was floored,” she said.

She said the gifts will help parents who need some extra help during the holidays and grandparents who can’t afford to buy gifts for their grandchildren.

“There isn’t a kid on this earth that doesn’t deserve to open a present,” Taylor said.

Muckerheide said because this is the first year of the toy and book drive, she would have been happy with anything they got. She wasn’t expecting such a great response.

“I’m excited for it to get disbursed,” she said.

Taylor said many of the families who donated got their own children involved in picking out gifts for the toy drive. She said a lot of younger children took ownership of the toy and book drive and picked out toys they would enjoy.

“Really, the cool part of it is children taking care of other children,” Taylor said. “The ones who did the collecting definitely took personal ownership.”

The Between Friends Food Pantry serves a population within 155 square miles, stretching through nine municipalities. Taylor said they planned to work with another group to distribute items among the Kaneland School District 302 communities.

She said while toys and books are being distributed to families, she hopes to keep children occupied so it doesn’t spoil the surprise.

“It’s like a secret Santa,” she said. “Our goal is that these kids do not even know they’re getting a gift.”

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