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With charitable giving down, community group struggles to find toys for needy

With charitable giving down, community group struggles to find toys for needy
REUTERS/Jessica Rinaldi

In a sign of local economic times, Santa may not be able to call at the homes of some needy West Metro kids this holiday season.

Hours away from the start of their toy and gift give-away, ResourceWest finds it may not be able to fill the wish lists of a substantial number of the 1,187 children registered for their Toy Chest Distribution. 

The need is great but donations are slow.

“We are at about 40 percent of where we need to be in order to meet the demand,’’ said Judy Elling, executive director of ResourceWest, a community-based social service agency based in Hopkins. More than 160 more children need gifts this year compared to last and the requests for help keep coming, she said Wednesday.

“People are just feeling the pinch a little bit,’’ she said, adding that some of last year’s donors are this year asking for gifts for their own kids.

When you think about it, the shortage reflects findings of a charitable giving report issued earlier this month. Called “Giving in Minnesota 2010 Edition,” the analysis showed a 7.7 percent decrease in individual’s donations to charities in 2008, the most recent giving data available. 

Even today, too many local families are struggling to meet the costs of housing, energy, transportation and food while dealing with joblessness and underemployment. There’s a shortage despite the fact that the U.S. Commerce Department reported this week that retailers tallied their fifth consecutive month of sales increases in November, a hint of an economic turnaround.  

ResourceWest, which serves the seven cities of the Hopkins and Minnetonka school districts, is looking for gifts for kids of all ages, from newborn through high school. The agency website pleads an urgent need for new, unwrapped toys for all ages, as well as for warm clothes such as waterproof gloves, size small.

Still, there is hope. Elling believes that residents living in Excelsior, Minnetonka, Deep Haven and the other towns the agency serves will rise to the call. Gift drop-off sites at banks, churches, government buildings and retail stores can be found here. Those who qualify for help are the same children whose families meet the low income guidelines qualifying them for free or reduced-fee school lunch.

But time is running short. Beginning today, ResourceWest invites families in to “shop one large value toy, one small value toy and a stocking stuffer’’ for their children, Elling said.

Because of the shortage, ResourceWest will accept toys until Dec. 21 and monetary donations throughout the holidays.

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