Donations can be mailed to:
Toys for Tots
1921 W. Wilson St. #129
Batavia, IL 60510
To learn more or make an on-line donation, visit Kane County Toys for Tots
AURORA — More than anybody, Patrick Kackert understands what it means to rely on the generosity of others. As the Kane County Toys for Tots Coordinator, he is on the hunt every year for donated warehouse space to house and organize the almost 28,000 toys donated for Kane County Toys for Tots. A best case scenario would put his team in a warehouse mid-October.
But after hearing, “no, sorry,” 30 times, Kackert, a Marine reservist, was left wondering what he was going to do. That’s when fate put him together with organized labor. Specifically, Scott Roscoe, president of the Fox Valley Building and Construction Trades Council and a business representative for Pipefitters Local 597.
After Roscoe, a Marine, Kackert, and mutual friend Brian Dolan initially looked at a spot that was too small, Roscoe suggested space at Pipefitters Local 597 Training Center on Farnsworth Avenue in Aurora. Used for training students in welding and HVAC, the school is usually bustling with students, but it was temporarily empty so the floor could be redone and refinished. For Kackert, the timing couldn’t have been better.
“I told [Scott], ‘this is perfect. It’s exactly what we needed.’ We couldn’t do this without the space, and it was all donated by the pipefitters,” Kackert said. He was used to last year’s 35,000 square-foot facility, but it was a blessing to find a 15,000 square-foot facility at the last minute.
The final person to sign on was 597 Training Director John Leen, who was enthusiastic about the opportunity to help Toys for Tots.
Come next year, Kackert will be on the hunt again. He understands the pipefitter’s training facility will probably be bustling with students and not available, but every year brings additional connections, and more opportunities.
In the mean time, volunteers spent the week of Dec. 12 filling orders for Kane County Toys for Tots nearly 40 organizations that request toys.
Kackert’s passion extends to his family. Not only does his wife, Toni, help, so does Kackert’s 79-year-old father George, a Marine.
Beyond family, volunteers at the warehouse facility help unload trucks that are transporting boxes of toys, sort toys and fill orders for organizations. Organizations are responsible for picking up toys.
Volunteer Doris Bolin spent hours working on filling an order for Elgin’s Community Crisis Center, which is one of Kane County Toys for Tots biggest clients. The center provides comprehensive services to individuals and families in crisis due to domestic violence, sexual assault, or economic/ financial difficulties.
“It takes a lot longer than you actually think,” she said regarding ‘shopping’ for toys to fill orders. Her goal was to pick out toys for 250 boys, aged 10 to 14 — the age group that receives the least amount of donated toys.
Monetary donations to the Kane County Toys for Tots organization goes to purchase toys specific to the 10- to 14-year-old age group.
The warehouse is divided down the middle: boy toys on one side, girl toys on the other. If you ever forget, each side it’s clearly visible with the stark contract of pink and blue colors. Bolin noticed Barbies were popular for the girls, and Star Wars toys for the boys.
Warehouse Manager Dorothy Holland reminds volunteers to not always think gender-specific. “I tell them to think about including Lego kits and science toys for girls,” Holland said.
Not every toy makes it to a child. There was a spot under the Christmas tree by the front door where Booger Balls, Chunky Crunch and a rifle scope lay. “Sometimes we get things that have toilet humor, but the rifle scope — I don’t know what someone was thinking,” she said with a laugh.
There’s also a spot for ‘misfit toys,’ which are used, torn or unusual donations, like Tattoo Art, and a box of 4-inch Kewpie dolls, each dressed as a character of the Wizard of Oz with a $99 price tag.
“It’s really a judgement call on these items whether or not to give this to a child, but we’re not giving away VHS tapes,” Holland said.