Businesses contribute to Toys for Tots effort
By Romi Herron For The Beacon News December 6, 2012 1:12PM
Fred Zimmerman of Elgin volunteers with Toys for Tots and said a loaner van from Biggers Chevrolet is one example of local businesses supporting the annual effort.
Updated: January 7, 2013 7:12AM
The success of Toys For Tots of DuPage and Eastern Kane Counties is about community members remembering just how many families need help, says Elgin resident Fred Zimmerman, a VFW Commandant and volunteer toy collector for Toys For Tots. And this year, he’s encouraged by local businesses willing to kick in their own resources to help the cause.
“I get to keep this van for the entire holiday season,” said Zimmerman, loading boxes of collected toys into a white van loaned to him by Biggers Chevrolet in Elgin. “They saw me using my own vehicle to pick up toys and they said I should use this instead.”
The dealership detailed the cargo van with Toys For Tots and Biggers Chevy logos, so it’s a moving promotional tool any time it’s on the road. It’s also more spacious than Zimmerman’s personal vehicle and enables him to avoid additional wear and tear on it.
“The more I drive (the loaner), the more publicity we get,” said Zimmerman, who also said St. Charles-based Colonial Cafe has an effective collection and outreach program at each of their seven cafes. Not only does each location collect toys from customers, they also collect monetary contributions, usually $1-2 increments.
“Last year (Colonial employees) loaded their ice cream van up and took the toys to the township,” Zimmerman said. “They probably had over 2,000 toys.”
Also chipping in to help Toys For Tots is Charlestowne Mall in St. Charles, Zimmerman said, by offering free space to store toys. Another supporter is Paintball Explosion in East Dundee, according to Zimmerman. Full-day admission is usually $18, he said, but that will be waived with a donation of one toy per registered person on Sunday, Dec. 16.
Dozens of area businesses are offering special events or incentives to help collect toys, and those details are available at the Toys For Tots website. Toys For Tots is a nationwide non-profit organization that works with area churches and service organizations where families register for toy donations. It is run by the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve and was founded in 1947, according to its website.
Zimmerman, a Vietnam War veteran with corporal standing who enlisted at age 19, said he also credits the collaborative effort of the U.S. Marine Corps for its continued success with Toys For Tots. “Us Marines stick together and I think with the camaraderie, everyone works so hard to get something done,” he said, noting Rita O’Reilly, the coordinator for Toys For Tots DuPage and East Kane County, organizes the logistics.
O’Reilly said the zone’s inclusion of Eastern Kane County this year led to more need requests. “Toys For Tots has more than 770 collection sites this year,” she said. “The need requests have doubled.”
“Sometimes the need doesn’t look as big on paper,” O’Reilly said. “But the teachers and principals know their students better than anyone.” Those school leaders share names with Toys For Tots to make sure they have the option to receive donations.
“The schools are probably our biggest allies,” O’Reily said.
More information is available at Toys For Tots website, www.dupage-il.toysfortots.org. Checks can be mailed to: Rita O’Reilly, 238 E Bailey Road, Apt. E , Naperville, Ill. 60565.