Cass County inviting community to participate in annual Toys for Tots program

CASSOPOLIS — This year, running a Toys for Tots campaign will look different for Cass County coordinators Ken Lebeda and April Fester due to complications caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Typically, we go through the schools, but this year, we can’t do that,” Lebeda said. “We’ve had to get creative in order to make this work.”

Now, the two are working overtime to make the program a success and bring Christmas joy to children in Cass County.

Cass County families can sign up to receive Christmas assistance through the Toys for Tots program both this Saturday and Saturday, Nov. 14, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at both the Main branch of the Cass District Library in Cassopolis and the Edwardsburg branch in Edwardsburg. The Marcellus library will be hosting sign-ups from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Families looking to sign up must bring Michigan identification that shows Cass County as their area of residence and a birth certificate or proof of guardianship for each child.

According to its website, in 2019, 4,849 toys were distributed to 970 children in Cass County through the Toys for Tots program. This year, as long as the word about the program is spread, both Lebeda and Fester expect that number to increase due to the need created by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Initially, we weren’t going to do it, but the foundation called and said, ‘this is the worst year. We need to do whatever it takes,’” Lebeda said.

“We need to get the word out,” Fester added. “The kids won’t understand that Santa Claus didn’t come because of COVID-19, so we really needed to do this for them.”

While families in need are signing up for the program, Lebeda and Fester will be encouraging community members who are able to donate to the program to help Cass County children. Physical toys can be dropped off at several Cass County locations, including 410 Rowland St., Cassopolis, the Dowagiac Fire Department and the Edwardsburg Fire Department. Those who wish to donate monetarily can do so at cassopolis-mi.toysfortots.org.

“If anyone wants to make monetary donations, we could really use that,” Fester said. “With everything going on, we really need donations this year.”

Despite the extra work that has gone into coordinating this year’s Toys for Tots program, both Lebeda and Fester said it would be worth it to bring smiles to Cass County families.

“We are doing this for the same reason we do this every year,” Lebeda said. “We do it for the kids — to give them a good Christmas.”

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