GREAT FALLS — Each year, KRTV partners with several organizations for our annual Day Of Giving. It's a time where our staff asks the community to help those in need through food, toy, and monetary donations that benefit the Great Falls Community Food Bank, Toys For Tots of North Central Montana, and The Salvation Army of Great Falls.
This year, Covid-19 has changed the in-person fundraising event to a virtual "Week Of Giving."
We talked with MaryLou Brewster, the Toys For Tots of North Central Montana coordinator, about how the pandemic has affected operations and what their biggest needs are.
“It's really scary,” she said. “We used to give three toys each and I don't think we can do that this year.”
In the age of Covid and the resulting uncertainty, she says holiday traditions are needed more than ever: “I'm hoping for two toys each, but I’m afraid it’s not gonna happen,” said Brewster. “I’m thinking we’re probably gonna go over 6,000 kids this year easily.”
The non-profit needs toys for a growing number of families who are facing new financial problems due to the pandemic. “I hear the saddest stories on the phone and emails,” she said. “It just breaks my heart. I promise I'll find a way to get the toys.”
Toys For Tots relies on fundraisers and auctions over the year to cover a majority of expenses. “I spend on average about $50,000 a year on toys, so not having that money is huge,” she said. “It's scary.” Brewster said Covid restrictions may have canceled those opportunities, but it hasn’t derailed their mission to serve others: “Our policy was we’re not gonna turn anybody away,” she said. “We will beg on the streets if we have to, to get toys for them.”
Toys For Tots has had minor success with smaller campaigns that were created around Covid concerns, such as the Toys For Tots Train. She says they collected around 800 toys and $1,000 through last year's Day Of Giving. Without an in-person event this year, they're relying even more on the community's help. “It's (Day of Giving) always been a big deal to us. We bring a trailer up and we usually fill that trailer and bring it back with toys,” she said;
The organization is most in need of items for preteens and teenagers ages 13-17 years old.
The Toys For Tots Train on Saturday, December 12th will be in the Holiday Village Mall parking lot in Great Falls from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m.
These are the three organizations that are part of the Day Of Giving. If you would like to help, please use the following links to make a donation:
- Great Falls Toys For Tots
- Great Falls Community Food Bank
- Great Falls Salvation Army's Virtual Red Kettle