Once again a room at Opportunity Presbyterian Church has been taken over by a pile of toys as the church prepares for its second annual toy store.
The church collects toys that are sold to parents at an 80 percent discount from the retail price. It’s an invitation-only store, with admission tickets handed out to area schools, homeless shelters and nonprofit organizations to be distributed to low-income families. Proceeds from the store are given to local charities.
This year Central Valley High School senior Kelsy Shatto is organizing the dolls, cars, games and other toys into neat stacks of items appropriate for boys, girls or either gender. Last year the project was put together at the last minute by the church’s full-time youth pastor and the youth group. This year, with only a part-time youth pastor, Shatto volunteered to organize the effort as her project for attaining the Girl Scout Gold Award. The Gold Award is the highest award given in Girl Scouts.
“I loved the experience of setting it up last year, just to see the families,” she said. “I wanted to take it up in my own arms this year.”
Parents buy the toys instead of receiving them for free to give them a sense of ownership. “They get the pride and joy of picking out a toy for their child,” Shatto said.
Parents who came to last year’s toy store were happy to see popular toys of the moment mixed in with classics like board games and building blocks, she said. It’s the same this year, with things like roll-up piano keyboards, bicycles and a digital drum kit among the donated presents. Each child may receive two toys.
Shatto distributed 100 tickets to various organizations three weeks ago, but she doesn’t know how many people will show up, especially as the church is not able to provide free transportation this year. Other organizations handle the ticket distribution because they know who among their clients needs help. “I want it to go to families that need it,” Shatto said.
Last year 60 tickets were handed out, but only 25 families arrived at the toy store. The event was held for only a couple of hours in the evening during the worst snowstorm of the year, which may have affected attendance. This year Shatto is hoping to help 50 families.
Shatto is making a few changes to make it easier for families. The toy store will be open more hours, and the distribution day is next Saturday, which is earlier than last year. Free child care will be provided so parents can pick out toys without children seeing them. This year Shatto also is collecting a handful of items for adults, so children can pick out a present for their parents.
So far Shatto has a shortage of items for girls. There are drop boxes available at the church, 202 N. Pines Road, Washington Trust Bank main branch in downtown Spokane, and the Girl Scout Council office.
A Gold Award requires 85 hours of service, and Shatto estimates she’s put in 45 so far. After the event is finished, she also plans to put together a manual on how to run the event that can be given to whoever organizes it next year.
“I want to make sure it does live on,” she said.