Dowagiac Fire Department welcomes donations for annual Toys for Tots program

DOWAGIAC — The Cass County Toys for Tots program is in full swing, and Dowagiac businesses are doing their part to make sure children across the county have a merry Christmas.

The program, which provides Christmas assistance to area families, is supported by several local businesses, organizations and public entities, including the Dowagiac Fire Department, 302 Wolf St., Dowagiac.

Lieutenant Anthony Stewart said the department has been accepting toy donations since October and is one-fourth of the way toward its toy donations goal.

“So far in our area, toy donations seem to be down due to COVID,” Stewart said. “It’s been a tough year. We have four boxes full at the fire department and we’re hoping to finish with 15 boxes.”

Toys for Tots Cass County coordinator Ken Lebeda and his volunteers have been hard at work making sure Cass County kids will be wearing smiles on Christmas day. According to Lebeda, roughly 780 families and counting have signed up for the program at Cass County libraries.

“The numbers are about the same, give or take,” Lebeda said. “At first, we weren’t going to do it due to the pandemic, but our volunteers and the Marine Toys for Tots foundation stepped up to make it work.”

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services’ recent closure of dine-in services has hindered toy donations, according to Stewart.

“Places like the Wounded Minnow would typically collect boxes and boxes of toys,” Stewart said. “But that just isn’t happening this year.”

While toy donations may be slowed, Lebeda said the community has shown its generosity in other ways.

“I had a call from a business the other day that wanted to donate $500 toward the program,” Lebeda said. “His business couldn’t have a physical box. Everyone still wants to support, they’re just finding other ways.”

When asked what has kept him coming back to coordinate the program for 30 years, Lebeda’s answer was short and sweet.

“It’s all about the kids,” he said. “Every kid deserves a happy Christmas.”

Toys for Tots drop-off locations in Dowagiac include:

C. Wimberley Inc., 57333 M-51, Dowagiac; Tractor Supply, 56418 Pokagon St., Dowagiac; Family Fare, 56151 M-51, Dowagiac; Fit Stop Dowagiac, 201 S. Front St., Dowagiac; Ausra Equipment, 30155 Yaw St., Dowagiac; L.A.D.D. Inc., 300 Whitney St., Dowagiac; The Mane Attraction, 56332 M-51, Dowagiac; Marathon Gas Station, 801 Spruce St., Dowagiac; Northside Liquor, 602 N. Front St., Dowagiac; Shell Gas Station, 102 N. Front St., Dowagiac; True’s Towing, 725 N Front St., Dowagiac; Dollar General, 104 Park Pl., Dowagiac.

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