RACINE — Do you ever wonder what happens to those old, beat-up toys you drop off at a Tex Reynolds Toys for Tots site?
At the Racine City Hall Annex, 800 Center St., a crew of nearly 55 volunteers show the toys love, returning them to like-new quality and finding them new homes.
The aim of the program, which began in the 1930s and was named in honor of one of its founding fathers, Journal Times columnist Tex Reynolds, is to provide children in need with refurbished toys.
Volunteers wash baby dolls and Barbies. Their tiny outfits also are washed and mended; some volunteers sew new outfits out of patterns. That old non-working bike becomes king of the sidewalks once again, after the bike crew has fixed it.
Those giant playsets your children grew out of are scrubbed down and left looking like they just came out of the box. Those board games your family stopped playing are reunited with missing pieces, and sent to a new family who will enjoy them.
It’s a regular Santa’s Workshop as used toys are rehabilitated and find new, appreciative owners.
“We can take some interesting stuff and make it new,” said Pete Waselchuk, president of Tex Reynolds Toys for Tots.
Waselchuk, a retired Caledonia fire chief, has been president of the local chapter of Toys for Tots for 10 years now.
He and a crew of 55 volunteers work in the shop. There also are about 35 to 40 volunteers who work from home, doing things such as knitting blankets, sewing Barbie clothes and putting together puzzles to ensure all the pieces are there.
Volunteers rehab dollhouses, collect items, fill and hand out orders, fix bikes, wash and fix toys and electronics, and clean up Barbies and baby dolls.
Jeanne Crawford, a volunteer for 24 years, is in charge of the doll area. She and her crew make sure all the donated baby dolls are clean and clothed, and each child receiving a package gets a little something extra with their gifts, including dress-up clothes, jewelry and purses.
“We try to use whatever we get in,” Crawford said.
Helping those in need
Starting Oct. 2, families in need came down to Toys for Tots to fill out an application for gifts. Applicants include the number of children for whom Toys for Tots volunteers will find matching gifts. Applicants also get to chose one “big” gift, such as a bike or playset.
Tuesday was the last day for families to sign up for the program.
“We’ll have over 450 families who all will have a Christmas,” Waselchuk said.
On Jan. 8, they will start all over again for Christmas 2019. It takes volunteer crews all year to prepare for the holiday.
Donations of used toys are accepted at the City Hall Annex between 8 a.m. and 11:30 a.m., Tuesday through Thursday; and also are accepted at any area fire station or at Kortendick Ace Hardware, 3806 Douglas Ave., Racine.