KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — More than 600 applications for toys this Christmas are on hold while the Toys for Tots coordinator in Knoxville struggles to find warehouse space.
Jeremiah James said this year they are behind. He’s called numerous spaces to rent to store, sort and pass out the toys, but has had no luck so far.
“We’re just running into all types of roadblocks. Every direction. No warehouse space located. We were already in a warehouse space last year at this time, and this year we’re not. So, we are behind. Hugely behind,” James said.
Marine Toys for Tots collects new, unwrapped toys during October, November and December each year, and distribute those toys as Christmas gifts to less fortunate children in the community.
The Knoxville campaign serves more than just Knox County. It also helps families in the surrounding counties, including Blount, Anderson, Roane, Loudon and Monroe.
James, an active-duty Navy service member stationed in Knoxville, said those roadblocks include issues with a timeframe, pricing and size. He needs a space big enough to house and distribute the toys.
“Two-thousand square feet we can work with. It would be tight because we would have volunteers, plus all the toys, and sorting and bikes, and all that stuff. But, anywhere from 2,000 to 4 or 5,000 would be ideal,” James said.
He said they have money to offer, but because the organization relies solely on donations, they can only provide so much.
Plus, they only need the space through Dec. 31.
“I know for me, all the ones I’m calling, they’re saying that the short-term leases, they don’t want to get involved in short-term leases. They want long-term leases of six months or more, and because we’re only wanting the space til December 31st, they don’t want to lease to us,” James said.
He said he has more than 600 applications from families for toys, and most of those families have more than one child needing a gift this year. Those families are on hold until he has a warehouse ready to go.
“We can’t approve any kid, any of the applications for the parents to get toys because we don’t have the location for them to come pick them up,” James said.
That’s not the only issue James has come across this year. He also needs more businesses participating, because so many more families are needing help with gifts.
“I just start calling businesses and see if they want to be a part of it. Churches, and any organizations like that, I try to call and see it they want to be a part of it. It’s the biggest thing is community involvement and getting toys. That’s all we can ask for,” James said.
He said it’s easy for businesses to participate. All they have to do is contact him online and request a donation box. During the first few weeks of December, James and other volunteers will pick up the boxes and bring the toys inside to their warehouse (which they don’t have yet) to sort out.
He’s calling on more churches and businesses in downtown Knoxville to join.
“That’s pretty much the only location that I haven’t been delivering any boxes. I’ve been all the way down in West Knoxville, Broadway area. So, downtown is a huge hub so it would be nice just to see some advertisement, some boxes down there and get some involvement down there,” James said.
James would also love some more volunteers to lend a hand. He said a few other service members and their families are the only volunteers they have.
He said he volunteers because he knows how much these toys mean for the kids.
“Reason why I do it is because of the faces, or you know, a lot of them say, ‘hey, my kids weren’t going to get anything this year for Christmas and you know, this will be the only type of toys that they get for, they’re the only toys they get and so you’re making Christmas for the kids,'” James said.
James said the kids don’t usually have a favorite toy. They are grateful for any gift they receive.
How You Can Help
If you would like to donate to Toys for Tots, you can find a list of donation boxes on the Toys for Tots Knoxville website.
If you would like to help Toys for Tots and place a box at your business, or have a warehouse space that can help, you can click here.
Last year, more than 12,000 toys were distributed in the greater Knoxville region. More than 5,000 kids were supported.