Thoughts for Toys For Tots: Dollar Stores

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Chance are you’re still shopping this Christmas season. Chances are you’ll be headed to a mall or some downtown area. Chances are that space will have both a high-end coffee shop and a .99¢ store. Chance are you’ll duck into one of them… but which one?

Toys for Tots is the USMC Reserves backed charity that collects toys for underprivileged children. The mission of the program “is to collect new, unwrapped toys during October, November and December each year, and distribute those toys as Christmas gifts to needy children in the community in which the campaign is conducted.¹

Now while they get a good deal of large corporate donors, the lions share of toys comes from donation boxes scattered throughout communities and do-gooders like you. But with the way things are these, demand is up and supply is down, and it’s cutting things close.

According to the 2015 Toys for Tots Annual Report, the marines did good (Ooh Rah) – “As a result of our successful campaign, our Marines and volunteers distributed 18 million toys to 7 million less fortunate children.²

But it came at an additional cost – “Because of the increase in demand, the Foundation spent $10 million more on toys than we had budgeted.²

So you’re saying to yourself, “Fine, so a charity had to spend their money, that’s what they do.”

Right, but that’s all they do. Toys for Tots is one of those rare charities where most of it’s income goes right back out – 97% in fact³. If they have to shell out anymore to make up for deficiencies in donations either the kids will suffer, or the operations will suffer… and then the kids will suffer.

So this brings us back to the choice presented earlier. Dollar store or coffee shop?

If you’re going out into the shopping melee this season and planning to caffeinate yourself on site – why not pack a thermos? Take the money you were going to blow on a 20oz cup of syrup and instead make some child’s life a little sweeter – swing by the dollar store and pick up a few toys for the cause.

Now I’m not going to lie, to the privileged brat such as I was, dollar store toys are not an ideal gift. But to someone with nothing, they are not horrible. I went down to my local Dollar General for some research and this is what I came back with:


All in all not too shabby. They’re play-with-able and are decent quality. And for the kids that Santa would pass over due to the rising costs of reindeer chow, a small blessing.

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Ryan is an artist / writer out of Melbourne, FL.

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