MCHENRY COUNTY, IL — Local non-profit organization are scrambling and rallying to get the word out about a “critical” deficit in toy donations this holiday season.

Inflation is to blame for an overall drop in donations this holiday season, said Brian Duewel, director of communications for The Salvation Army North and Central Illinois Division.

The Salvation Army is seeing an increase in need for all of its services, including emergency assistance for utility, rental or mortgage payments; food banks; and need for winter clothing and requests for toys.

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“It’s all due to the cost of inflation. Even though inflation has come down slightly, it’s still too high for so many families just trying to make ends meet,” Duewell said. “A record number of families are living paycheck-to-paycheck, so one added expense can force a parent to make the choice between paying the rent or putting food on the table – and where does a present under the tree fall? Usually far down the list. So this year, more families than ever that are reaching out to us for help to put a toy or two under the tree.”

In particular, there is a “critical deficit” for toy donations this year, Salvation Army organizers said Thursday.

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Anna Mendoza, a coordinator for Toys for Tots in McHenry County, said the organization is also nowhere near where it needs to be to provide the minimum number of gifts to children in need this holiday season.

In particular, toys for older children, including those over 8 years old, are critically low.

As of Thursday, Toys for Tots had only brought in about 15 to 25 percent of its needed toys for older children. This is the last week toys are typically accepted, Mendoza said.

“I am hearing all across the county everyone is short on toys,” she said.

The Toys for Tots campaign in McHenry County doled out nearly 21,000 toys to more than 5,700 children last year. The deadline for most of the organization’s pick ups will be on Dec. 11. A full list of drop off sites in McHenry County can be found here.

Mendoza offered the following ideas for simple gifts that could work for the 8 year to 12 year age range: blue tooth speakers, puzzles, legos, Squishmallows, a lot of things that you find at Five Below and building kits.

Toys for Tots in McHenry County supplies toys to three major organizations as well as the M.O.R.E. Center in Marengo and foster children organizations. Each year, Toys for Tots aims to give three to four toys to each child signed up for the program.

“If we don’t have enough toys we have to find money to be able to buy the toys. That’s where monetary donations are very helpful,” Mendoza said.

Cash donations can be made on the Toys for Tots website.

On Thursday, the Salvation Army North and Central Illinois Division sent out a press release requesting more toy donations. The Salvation Army Angel Tree program is thousands of gifts behind last year’s total and its 2023 goal, according to Salvation Army officials.

“Each toy donated brings love, joy, and happiness to a child this Christmas,” said Major Caleb Senn,Salvation Army Chicago Area Commander. “Our goal is to make sure no child wakes up Christmas morningwithout a gift. We are calling on the generosity of our neighbors to make sure children across the statehave a Merry Christmas.”

Corps community centers are warning of deficits at all age levels. Gifts for boys and girls, ages 0 to 18 years old, are needed. New, unwrapped and age-appropriate toys for babies, toddlers, and adolescent children are appreciated as well as gift cards to help fill the void for teenagers.

You can drop off toys and gift cards at The Salvation Army Divisional Headquarters, 5040 N. Pulaski Road, Chicago, IL 60630. Toys and gift cards can also be ordered from Amazon and delivered to The Salvation Army Divisional Headquarters.

Cash donations can be made to the Salvation Army on the non-profit’s website.

“Inflation is hitting our donor numbers too. Because it costs more at the grocery store, many people don’t have the extra money to put in the Red Kettles – and that’s money that typically helps us buy toys for the children,” Duewell said.

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