Tis the season for Northwestern's “Toys for Cats” toy drive.
“We are collecting everything from toddler toys through stuff for high school students,” program organizer and Northwestern High School teacher Barb Miller said. “We will also accept monetary donations, hygiene items and non-perishable food items.”
High School student council and district AmeriCorps members will collect donations at the annual “Fill the Bus” donation collection event from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. this Saturday, Dec. 5, at Albion Dollar General.
Donations can also be dropped off at any school office in the district Dec. 1 through Dec. 11.
“Rule number one is to help the families in the district,” Miller said. “And we are instilling a sense of community in our kids. It points out to them how important it is to help one another.”
They Toys for Cats drive has seen immense growth over the last 12 years.
“The service that we provide has grown, and the community support has grown with it,” Miller said.
Last year the program helped 125 families, all within the district.
More than 30 high school students assisted by wrapping, sorting and packing up not only toys, but food items, including a frozen chicken for each family.
This year, Clint Corder’s Wildcat Ventures shop and technology students are making 18 wooden beanbag games and 30 dice baseball games for the gift packs. Students in Julie Schmidt's food and consumer science classes are making loaves of bread to freeze and include in the food baskets.
Women from the Northwestern Senior Center knitted more than 30 colorful hats for the drive last month.
And for the first time, Andover Bank, branches in Albion, Springfield and Cranesville and the Albion Pharmacy have giving trees for “Toys for Cats” at their locations.
Anyone can get a tag with an age and gender written on it and return the tag to the bank or the school with a gift. The businesses are also accepting cash donations.
“Andover is really big on community projects,” said Sheri Regelmann, head teller at the Springfield branch. “The employees at all three branches took a vote on what we wanted to do this year, and we chose ‘Toys for Cats.’”
Miller puts a lot of work into the program year-round.
She and district Business Manager Paul Sachar have made it a Black Friday tradition to go out at 6 a.m. and get items on deal for the gift packs.
Miller said she appreciates the school district employees who donate to the program through payroll deduction, which enables her to shop for the program during good deals not just during the holidays, and she is thankful for all the community members who donate and take time to help out.
“Nothing comes directly from the district to support this effort,” Miller said. “All funds used are donations from the community.”
Distribution of the gift packs will be Dec. 18 and 19 at the high school.
Miller asks that if anyone knows families in Northwestern School District in need this holiday season, to call her at 756-9400 ext. 1272. She said all information on recipient families is kept confidential.
Check out a pic of Wildcat Ventures students making toys for the drive here: