Have you ever wanted to be Santa Claus for a morning? See and feel the joy of giving gifts to children, imagining their faces lighting up as the tiny tykes play with their newest goodie or when a teen gets that perfect gift?

Volunteer to hand out gifts Saturday, Dec. 21, with the Jackson County Toys for Tots program. It’s a feeling unlike anything else, according to program director Megan Simmons, who said toy collection is now under way.

“It would be really great to have more helpers Dec. 21,” Simmons said. “We’ve gone to a shopping method for families so they choose the largest gift for their child, so a volunteer works with the parent. It’s gone over really, really well. This helps give them a choice for their child.”

And, do you know what gifts boys age 6 to 18 like?

If you’ve got the answer, Jackson County Toys for Tots could use some help shopping for them as organizers prepare for the annual holiday toy-giving program to get under way.

The nationwide U.S. Marine Corps Toys for Tots program provides free gifts for children age birth to 17 years who are in need, and Simmons said the middle age range of boys has been the most difficult to obtain presents for so far.

“They can use older board games, more advanced remote-controlled vehicles, headphones, drones, that kind of thing,” Simmons said.

2019 marks the second year the Jackson County Toys for Tots program merged with the Maquoketa Community Services Reach for a Star Program. Both programs provided gifts to Jackson County-area children in need. (Reach for a Star now serves only senior citizens.)

Organizers handled the merger seamlessly, adding about 50 kids to the Toys for Tots gift list, “just a small influx,” said Simmons, who has led the program for four of its nine years in the county. The program provided gifts for more than 850 Jackson County children in 2018.

“We saw a lot more community support because some people were dedicated to [buying gifts] for one program and not the other,” Simmons said. “We saw a lot more donations.”

The white Toys for Tots collection boxes with the red toy train logo are located in businesses (see sidebar) throughout the county. The collection boxes will be out in the community through Dec. 15.

Donate cash to the charitable program or buy new, unwrapped toys and gifts for children age infant to 17 years. Donations are tax deductible. Cash donations can be sent to P.O. Box 731, Maquoketa, Iowa 52060.

The public can also enjoy a night of trivia while raising money and toy donations. A special trivia night will be held Dec. 6 at The Timber Center, Maquoketa.

All money and toy donations stay in Jackson County.

Toy-bagging night is 6 p.m. Dec. 18. Toys for Tots volunteers have toys divided by age and grouped. On that night, community volunteers take tags with children’s ID numbers (recipients always remain anonymous) and collect gifts to meet each child’s needs.

Toy pick-up date is Dec. 21 at 8 a.m. for people from the Maquoketa area. Reliant on donated space, the “North Pole,” a.k.a., Toys for Tots headquarters, has again moved. This year, the toy operation will be located inside the former Jill’s Hair Care at 115 N. Main St., Maquoketa.

Recipients in the Preston area can pick up gifts Dec. 22 at 4 p.m.

Recipient families will receive letters with more gift pick-up details.

For more information about the Jackson County Toys for Tots program, call Simmons at 563-357-4547 or 563-212-7114.

Toys for Tots Drop-off LocationsANDREW

Maquoketa State Bank

BALDWIN

Ohnward Bank & Trust

BELLEVUE

Bellevue State Bank

Fidelity Bank

Bender’s Grocery

Bellevue Herald-Leader

Flatted Fifth (Potter’s Mill)

Collins Aerospace

MAQUOKETA

Maquoketa YMCA

Theisen’s  

Dollar General

Fidelity Bank

Fareway

Lechtenberg & Young

Wal-Mart

Timber City Chiropractic

Smiles on Main

Crestridge

MILES

Clinton National Bank

PRESTON

Clinton National Bank

Maquoketa State Bank

Preston Grocery

Dollar General

SABULA

Island City Harbor

Clinton National Bank

ST. DONATUS

Kalmes Restaurant

For more information, visit www.jackson-county-ia.toysfortots.org. Call Megan Simmons at 563-357-4547 to be added.