ELBURN – The American Legion Post 630 in Elburn joins a decades-long charitable Christmas tradition started by a Vietnam veteran in 1978 – collecting Toys for Tots for underprivileged children.
Legion member John Reece, who is coordinating the collection, said that people are welcome to drop off new and unwrapped toys and other items for children and young people at collection boxes all around Elburn, including at the Legion post at 112 N. Main St.
Drop-off times at the post are on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. or Thursdays and Fridays from 5 to 10 p.m. at the “Bunker Bar,” or pick-up may be arranged by leaving a message at the post at 630-365-6530.
Other drop-off locations include Vital Wellness at 880 N. Main St. on Tues and Thurs 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.; American Bank & Trust at 8 S. Main St. from Mon through Fri 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sat 9 a.m. to noon; Bob Jass Chevrolet at 300 S. Main St. from Mon through Sat during business hours and Elburn and Countryside Community Center at 252 N. Main St. from Mon through Fri, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sat. 9 a.m. to noon. The deadline for donations is Dec. 13.
Reece said that most people buy toys for children from 6 to 10 years old, so presents for teenagers are especially welcome. Idea suggestions for teens include arts and crafts items, sporting equipment, books, board games, jewelry, wallets, cosmetics or purses. Realistic-looking toy weapons and stuffed animals will not be accepted.
Legion volunteers will deliver the items to a distribution center in North Aurora, where the presents will be wrapped and with the help of local social welfare agencies, community organizations and church groups, they will be distributed during mid-to late December.
Vietnam veteran Ed “Aminal” [sic] Wisniewski on Dec. 13, 1978 organized a few friends to provide Christmas presents to underprivileged children in Chicago. The first collection featured a motorcycle parade of three participants, one motorcycle and a van half-full of toys, according to the Toys for Tots website.
By 2012, there were 70,000 motorcyclists and the Chicagoland Toys for Tots parade is currently the largest motorcycle parade in the world, providing tens of thousands of children with brand-new presents for Christmas.
Reece said he joined the Chicagoland parade in 2000, has participated with the Sycamore American Legion Post 99 riders for the past two years, and this year, brought the event home to Elburn.
Care packages for troops
The Elburn Legion will also be collecting items and donations during the month of December for care packages that will be sent to troops after the end of January. Items will be accepted until Jan. 31.
Organizer John Nevenhoven and his wife Melissa said that most soldiers, sailors and others serving in the armed forces who have families will typically be receiving care packages from them during the holiday season.
Nevenhoven said the Legion’s idea is to collect the items now, and to send them in February, when the holiday giving has slowed down and the community can show them they are not forgotten.
A list of suggested items is posted on the Elburn American Legion Post 630 Facebook page, and includes things such as personal hygiene items, disposable razors, feminine products including napkins and tampons, magazines, batteries, Beef Jerky (Ream’s Market will vacuum seal it), hard candy, cookies, coffee and powdered drink mixes.
Clean socks and underwear and tampons are highly requested items, and personal care and hygiene items and quick snacks are also much appreciated, Nevenhoven said.
He said that the Legion will also welcome cash donations to pay for postage and additional items needed for the care packages. Checks should be made payable to the Elburn American Legion Post 630 Charities. The items will be mailed in flat rate boxes, without regard to weight, so whatever the volunteers can fit into the boxes will be welcome.
Elburn resident and community organizer Pam Hall will help the Legion volunteers coordinate the collection and will schedule a packing party to get the boxes packed and ready for delivery. The items will be sorted by who needs what items in different locations and climates, and will be sent to active duty service men and women stationed in a variety of locations.
Hall recruited the help of a Facebook friend with a son in the military who is doing the same type of collection for her community. She has a confidential list of military personnel who will receive the packages. In addition, anyone with a family member in the military who they think would like a package is encouraged to contact the Elburn American Legion to give them their name and address.