In 40 years, the organization has helped more than 180,000 Native American children have a Merry Christmas.
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – It may be October, but the Toys for Tots organization is already preparing for the holidays.
His program for the benefit of Amerindian children is already underway and volunteers are collecting gifts to send to children in reservations, including the Knoxville chapter. The program supports the Office of the Vice President of the Navajo Nation with the Navajo Literacy Program.
Since 1980, Toys for Tots has given gifts to over 180,000 Native American children. In the early years of the program, however, few freebies were available for distribution in reservations.
“And we’re just trying to do whatever we can for the kids; we try to donate as many toys as possible for the kids, ”said Jeremiah James, Toys for Tots coordinator in Knoxville.
Because there were no large population centers near the Navajo Nation that could support a traditional toy program, the Navajo Toys for Tots program was initiated to provide needed toys for children in these areas.
It took too much work on the part of the volunteers, mostly from the police departments inside reservations, to get to California and pick up the donated toys.
The Toys for Tots Foundation now completes the programs and ships the toys directly to reservations. They collect gifts in October, November and December.
“We have a lot of agencies that work with Native American children, so the agencies will be requesting toys through us,” James said. “I think that’s Christmas. Just giving back, and if I can help a kid have a great Christmas, it’s worth it.”
The Native American program is also the only Toys for Tots program whose primary mission is to reach out to Native American reservations to donate toys and books to underprivileged children. Although it started in California, gifts were also distributed to tribes in Wyoming, Oklahoma, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Kansas, Nevada, New Mexico and Minnesota.
In 2020, 660,900 toys were given to 183,647 children in 13 states.
Families can go online to complete a application, to give gifts to their children. According to James, they already have a lot of apps, and that list should grow. Toys for Tots Knoxville also needs a warehouse, and James says it’s something they struggle to get every year.
Toys for Tots will accept donations from October to the end of December.