June 19, 2019

United Way doles out toys to County children

PRESQUE ISLE – With most of the toys out the door, officials with the United Way of Aroostook are puzzling over some of the numbers, but they are calling this year’s Toys for Tots drive another success.

According to rough estimates from Executive Director Claudia Stevens, the United Way has purchased and received local donations of about $7,000 in toys and obtained a larger than usual donation of about $17,000 in toys from the U.S. Marines’ Toys for Tots Foundation.

“It was unbelievable,” Stevens said of the amount of toys received from the foundation.

The drive collected enough donations to provide toys for nearly 1,000 children this year – everything from games and remote control cars to Barbie dolls and stuffed animals. The Toys for Tots program provides toys to children from birth to age 18 with a major focus on young children throughout Aroostook County.

Stevens said Wednesday that the United Way saw a decrease this year in both the number of people asking for toys and the amount of donations the organization received.

“Initially, our numbers for toy requests that came in were down a bit from previous years, which really surprised me,” Stevens said. “With situations like fuel assistance going on this year, we expected the number to be much higher.”

They also expected donations to be much lower than they were because of the local response to world and national disasters, such as Hurricane Katrina. While the United Way of Aroostook expects to feel the impact of those events on local charitable giving, Stevens said that right now the situation is not dire.

“My preliminary reports tell me that we’re pretty much on track,” she said. “[Aroostook County residents] always seem to remember the people right here in our communities. They seem to understand the need and always support us.”

However, United Way officials anticipate that the organization will face a borderline crisis because of the high need this year for fuel assistance.

“We’re right now trying to determine how we’ll help in that situation,” Stevens said.

With Christmas just around the corner, though, officials are counting their blessings on the toy project’s success.

“It’s amazing how it all comes together,” Stevens said of the Toys for Tots program. “We’ll get a call from someone saying that her son really wants a particular item. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve looked through all the donations and, at that moment, someone comes through the door with that item in hand. It blows my mind every time how this works.”

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