Toys for Tots brings Christmas to Cass children

CASSOPOLIS — Since the 1990s, Toys for Tots has brought Christmas cheer to Cass County by providing toys and other frivolities for children who may not have otherwise received any. In 2018, Toys for Tots served more than 700 children from about 250 families in Cass County.

As contribution and awareness for the program continues to grow, the absence of major grocery store chains is felt less and less.

“Cass doesn’t have major corporation stores,” Danielle Phillips, a volunteer for Cass Toys for Tots, said. “It’s a challenge without a Walmart or Meijer. We just don’t get the toys they get.”

Having drop boxes and major local donors is helpful in many communities with Toys for Tots programs. The lack of those large outlets in Cass has not impeded the program’s success and reach within the county, however.

There are volunteers working in Cass year-round to make Toys for Tots successful in its goal. When Christmas comes around again, as in 2018, the toys are brought to one location for approved families to shop for their little ones. Saturday at Pleasant View Church of Christ was the day and location for Cass County families, and it was what Phillips described as organized, but beautiful chaos. Although the Cass County program operates fairly smoothly now, according to Phillips, getting the final event around takes a significant amount of work and patience. In the end, however, it’s all for the kids.

“So many people come through here who wouldn’t have gifts if weren’t for the program,” Phillips said.

Phillips and the rest of the Cass Toys for Tots organizers hope more families participate in the program in the future. The process is simple enough by filling out applications collected from either the local school or DHS and getting them processed prior to the collection event.

“We understand people fall on difficult times. We won’t turn anybody away,” Phillips said.

Likewise, Phillips hopes more volunteers, donors and sponsors will come forward to participate in the Cass program. In the last few years, volunteer help has increased, according to Phillips, but there is always more work to be done, and therefore more help needed. Funds to buy toys, places to drop toys and help setting up for the event are all opportunities to help the program, and the children, flourish.

As a native of Cassopolis married to a Dowagiac native, serving the local community’s less affluent children is important to Phillips and her family. For her it’s not just about giving children play things to distract them, but about showing them there is a community that cares about them and their happiness.

“We just try to help,” Phillips aid. “It’s our home community, and we love being a part of it.”

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