Muncie Toys for Tots is a Labor of Love

By Katelynn Thys

MUNCIE, INDIANA (NEWS) - In the months of November and December Firefighters of Delaware County work with the Salvation Army to help families be able to enjoy Christmas. Local businesses give donations, fundraising events happen and Santa’s list is made.

But the work for that goes into Toys for Tots happens all year long. Chief Ed Bell said the men of the fire department take a lot of their own time to fix and clean the toys.

“It’s a labor of love for the guys, they really do so much work,” Chief Bell told the Muncie Free Press.

The fire department collects gently used toys at any of the firehouses all year long. So when you’re cleaning out your kid’s toy boxes in May, you could be making a child’s Christmas in December.

The Salvation Army collects applications at the end of October and beginning of November. The non-profit organization then gives the fire department a list of families that fall into the specific guidelines. These guidelines and the dates the applications are being accepted are posted on the Salvation Army website. This year, there are already 534 families registered. After making this list, the department checks it twice with their referral system to make sure as many families as possible are able to participate.

Registered families are able to come to come and personally choose $25 to $30 worth of new and used toys the week before Christmas. Jeff Gibson, firefighter and co-chair of toys for tots, says they will probably touch the lives of 1800 to 2000 children this year.

“It’s not about the recognition, though, we want these gifts to be from the parents and guardians,” he said.

Toys for Tots started sometime in the early 70’s Jeff Gibson says after a few house fires left local families devastated and homeless.

“There was a need for this program to start,” he said. “I can still remember firefighters fixing and cleaning toys on the pool table.”

Jeff Gibson has been a part of the toys-for-tots drive for the past 28 years. A tradition he is now passing on to his son, Kevin Gibson, who is co-chairing the fundraiser this year.

Chief Bell said this year the toy donations are at an all time low and are encouraging families to drop off gently used items at the main distribution center at 3727 South Madison or at any of the fire houses. They are also accepting money donations and are having a Bowling for Kids fundraiser on December 21st at Munsee Lanes.

The donations will help the station buy new toys as well as fund their Santa Arrives day at Tiny Adams Memorial on 421 East Jackson. Decembers 24th from 11 to 5 PM kids can receive a free gift, a picture with Santa and hot chocolate for free. Be sure to check them out on Facebook and like them there for more updates.