Ozark County Toy Drive puts presents under the Christmas trees of 230 local kids

Ozark County Toy Drive volunteers Susannah Alms, closest to the camera, and Jenna Uchtman work to wrap gifts during the 2022 Ozark County Toy Drive, held Dec. 17 in Gainesville.

Toys and other gifts for more than 200 Ozark County children were distributed Saturday, Dec. 17, at this year’s Ozark County Toy Drive. The event was held in the former Senior Center building on Third Street in Gainesville. 

“We had plenty of toys and lots of good workers,” said chairperson Nancy Walker, who estimated around 230 children were aided by the event this year.

Dozens of volunteers help with the annual event in a number of ways including donating money and gifts, hauling many pickup loads of toys from Walker’s home to the Toy Drive, bagging up candy and other items to pass out to parents. Other volunteers set up the display tables and served as gift wrappers, table assistants and gift carriers who accompany parents and carry the gifts from the tables to the wrapping stations.

The event allows anyone from Ozark County to stand in line for the free gifts. Walker says parents or adults who are “shopping” receive a number at the door in the order they arrive. Each shopper is accompanied by a carrier, who often helps the parent or guardian choose gifts for their children. 

Each shopper is allowed one large toy item and two or three stocking stuffers, or smaller items, per child. They also receive a stocking filled with candy and other “little things,” like toothpaste and chapstick and either an apple or an orange. The gift items are taken to the gift wrapping table, where volunteers wrap and package them, so they are ready to put under the Christmas tree. 

This year’s toy drive included 45 “big” items including bikes, red wagons, tricycles and other gifts that averaged more than $25 each, Walker said. Parents drew numbers for those gifts, which were given out in addition to the regular gifts. 

In addition to the gifts, each family receives a “jelly bag” as Walker refers to them, which includes a jar of peanut butter, a jar of jelly, Kraft macaroni and cheese and a sleeve of crackers. 

There is also a “Mama’s room,” which has new packages of socks, undergarments and other necessities, along with clothing, coats and home good items that parents can take home for their families. 

Nancy said there’s no time for rest. She begins plans for next year’s event the day after Christmas.

“As soon as it’s over, we start again. There are good sales immediately after Christmas. I have totes with lids. So I shop and store them there that way I can protect anything I buy. I have a storage shed at home that is often filled early in the year,” she said. 

Walker said the toy drive, which is totally supported by gifts and donations, has received donations ranging from $1 to $1,000.

“There are so many needs in this area. But there are also so many people who make the toy drive possible. It just makes you feel very humble to live in an area where we’re blessed with so many good-hearted people. And we also got donations from a long way away too.”

The need for donations continues as Walker prepares now to shop the after-Christmas sales to prepare for next year’s toy drive.  Donations to the Ozark County Toy Drive may be mailed to Walker at 378 Harlin Drive, Gainesville, MO 65655.

Ozark County Times

504 Third Steet
PO Box 188
Gainesville, MO 65655

Phone: (417) 679-4641
Fax: (417) 679-3423