DOVER — Dennis Sipple, coordinator for Toys for Tots in Kent County, had been hoping his organization would get a little taste of Christmas in July.
However, Mr. Sipple said he would gladly settle for some goodwill in August, too, as his group continues to seek out a home for its 2021 holiday campaign.
For five years, the nonprofit has conducted its yearly initiatives from the Kent County Levy Court-owned building at 26 Starlifter Ave. in the Kent County AeroPark.
However, Shore Industries leased that 10,000-square-foot-building in March and has plans to purchase the 2.8-acre site by the end of the year.
While it is a boon for Shore Industries, it suddenly left Toys for Tots without a home for the Christmas season.
Mr. Sipple said he has no ill feelings toward Kent County or the new business. He just wants to find a location to help make children and families happy this holiday.
“It is bittersweet,” he said. “The county did us very well while the building was available. We’re very thankful for what they have done the past few years, and I am sure they would give us a good reference on how well we took care of it. We always turned it back cleaner than we got it.
“The search is still on for a new location. I have sent emails out on open buildings in the area but, as of yet, have not heard back from anyone. We are able to get insurance and a tax letter through the Toys for Tots Foundation. The timeline in which we would need the building is the end of September through December.”
That is when Toys for Tots stocks up on goodies for the underprivileged before distribution at Christmastime.
Mr. Sipple said last year’s campaign was a special one for his organization.
“The mission has always been to give a little Christmas to as many children in need as the donations will allow,” he said. “Last year was one of our biggest years ever here in Kent County.”
Even amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Kent County Toys for Tots distributed 17,941 toys and supported 3,659 children in the area.
Overall, during the 2020 campaign, Marine Toys for Tots distributed more than 20.2 million toys, books and games to over 7.3 million less fortunate children nationwide.
For now, the Kent County operation is storing toys in a storage unit donated by Paul Davis. In addition, Mr. Sipple and his wife, Holly, have rooms in their house filled with items they find on sale.
“Every year, for the past 20-plus years, it is always a stressful time until I secure a location for us to hold a campaign,” said Mr. Sipple, who is hopeful for a building with an approximate 10,000-square-foot capacity. “It would be like Christmas in July to know we have a place.
“My favorite thing about being the (Toys for Tots) coordinator here in Kent County is knowing, ... in some small way, that we — all the volunteers — have maybe put a smile on some child’s face. That they know some people care enough to volunteer time to make sure they had a Christmas and that Santa didn’t forget them.”
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