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Marysville's annual Toy Store provides holiday gifts to families in the community


December 20, 2017 | View PDF

Christopher Andersson

photo BY CHRISTOPHER ANDERSSON Marysville Toy Store volunteer and Coldwell Banker employee David Hodgson helps pack away one of the toys selected by a shopper at the Marysville Toy Store on Dec. 14.

The Marysville Toy Store provided toys and other gifts to hundreds of families in need this holiday season.

The program is run by a group of Marysville Community Food Bank volunteers, is staffed through volunteers and run with donations.

This year more than 1,300 children were registered to receive the free gifts given out as part of the program, which was held on Dec. 13 and 14.

"Things have been going fantastic," said Tara Mizell, one of the main organizers for the Marysville Toy store.

Mizell said she likes to help run the program because of the need in the community.

This year they thought the numbers might drop because Thanksgiving basket distribution was down at the local food bank.

"I really thought the numbers might come in lower for registration, but it actually increased," said Mizell.

Last year they served around 1,200 kids, this year serving more than 1,300.

Clients are organized through the Marysville Community Food Bank and from referrals from counseling staff with the Marysville School District.

Locals who use the Toy Store say it is very helpful.

At one point in time Christina Valatin said she helped raise toys for these programs.

"I used to actually do a Christmas party for Toys for Tots and donate all the proceeds to them," she said.

"Recently my circumstances have drastically changed," she said. "I became unemployed and homeless in the span of two weeks," and she added she is currently staying with family.

She is also a survivor of domestic violence.

With four daughters Valantin is grateful for the help during the holiday times.

"It's going to be a saving grace for me and my daughters," she said. "I think [the Marysville Toy Store] is a great fabulous thing,"

Other families also say that the toy store is helpful.

"It's awesome. I feel like I'm actually shopping at a store," said local mother Noelle Joy.

"I think this is amazing," she said. "This is going to help me tremendously because both me and my children's father are not working at this time, so this is definitely making our Christmas."

Mizell said the Toy Store is also good to help support the community.

"I just think it also builds a sense of community," she said. "You talk with some of the clients and they are so grateful. There are kids with no coats, I just can't fathom that as a mom or as a person,"

Families get a variety of items throughout the Toy Store.

Each child gets to pick one toy or two smaller toys, a board game or puzzle, a book and some stocking stuffers.

Gift cards are also available for families. "So if they can't find anything that their particular child will want, they can get a gift card," said Mizell.

Coats collected by the Marysville Police Officers Association were also given out to families who needed them as well.

The drive for books for the Toy Store started years ago, said Mizell, when people would errantly donate books.

"I was sitting with a mom and she had a child under 2 and there were books in the stocking stuffer area and I just said 'would your child like a book' and she just started crying and said 'my child has never had a book,'" said Mizell.

"The more I started talking to her, the more I realized we have to start doing books because literacy is so important," she said.

This year also includes another necessity: toothbrushes. Last year the Toy Store was given some toothbrushes and they were taken rapidly.

"We went through 600 toothbrushes in the first two hours last year," said Mizell.

This year they started collecting from local dentistries with the hopes of gathering around 1,200.

"Pediatrics Dentistry told us 'well, we just ordered all 1,200 for you,' so we have a lot of toothbrushes now," said Mizell, as other dentists contributed as well.

The Marysville Community Food Bank provides a backpack program for local students to take home for the weekend and the extra toothbrushes will likely be included in that, said Mizell.

There is also a raffle for the big toys.

"We do raffles so we have big items up and families will get to pick which item they want to put their ticket into," said Mizell.

Those include doll houses, drones, bicycles and practical items like mattresses, almost all of which were donated from businesses.

This is the third year the Grove Church has provided their space for the program.

"Our biggest challenge over the years is that we don't have a facility," said Mizell, "and we were really worried because of the construction going on at Grove Church."

However the program was able to adapt around it.

In the past, the Marysville Toy Store has used places like the Jennings Park barn and the former Dunn Lumber building.

"You can't be picky when you don't have a building," said Mizell, "so Grove Church is Shangri-la for us."

Mizell said it takes a lot of coordination to put on the program, with a committee of about 27 people.

"The committee exists all year round and we meet every two weeks starting in September until the Toy Store starts," said Mizell.

There are also a number of volunteers who help guide clients and keep the shelves at the Toy Store stocked.

"We've just had the greatest group of volunteers, which we couldn't do this without," said Mizell.

Volunteer Bertha Munoz said she helps at the Marysville Toy Store "because I care for my community and because there is so much need," she said. "I am here to help those who are in need."

Christopher Andersson

Christina Valantin picks out some a toy for one of her daughters at the Marysville Toy Store on Dec. 14.

Munoz said being bilingual also allows her to contribute. "There are so many families that don't speak English that need my help," she said.

Restaurants, businesses and organizations also help the Toy Store, said Mizell.

"We couldn't do it without the restaurants and the businesses supporting us," she said.

Local restaurants like Christiano's Pizza, Jimmy Johns, Jeff's Texas Style BBQ and Port of Subs all donated food for the volunteers' lunch and dinner.

Marysville Rotary, Soroptimists and Kiwanis clubs all contributed money as well.

"We were able to get funding from so many of the different service clubs," said Mizell.

Employees from Coldwell Banker, Marshall and HomeStreet Bank all came to support as well, said Mizell.


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