Coming through the door of the Tacoma’s Toy Rescue Mission yesterday, from the frigid air outside, I relished the warmth; but next Christmas that space could be cold and empty. For eighteen years TRM has recycled “gently used” toys, inspecting each one for safety, cleaning, disinfecting, repairing, and restoring, bringing joy to thousands of local disadvantaged children. Now Toy Rescue Mission itself, just like the dolls with disjointed limbs, or little trucks with missing wheels, desperately needs to be rescued. The cash reserves of this successful non-profit, this ideal expression of American volunteerism, will run out in about six months unless help arrives. “Do you think you could write about them in your blog? NOW?” my friend Jan asked. As a member of Soroptimist International Tacoma she’s worked with TRM to provide toys for children helped by Shared Housing. “Of course,” I said. I hope by sending out an S.O.S. through Good Life Northwest, my readers and I can throw these valiant volunteers a lifeline before Recession claims another shipwreck.
In the “work room” bins of spare parts and toys yet to be repaired line the walls. TRM provides toys all through the year, not just in December, but despite the invaluable team of volunteers, requests for toys before Christmas make the month pretty intense. They are contacted by over 150 agencies but can only work with about 20. Overhead hurts, little as it is. The benevolent building owners charge a tiny fraction of the rent they could expect from someone else, because they want to support the “mission” of Toy Rescue Mission, and they also did $14,000 worth of repairs to make the space more comfortable and pleasant. Without that generosity it couldn’t exist. But along with lights, heat, phones, garbage, administrative expenses, and minimal salaries the budget exceeds income. If you’ve never heard of Toy Rescue Mission it’s because they don’t have money for fancy advertising like some other charities.
So why should you help Toy Rescue Mission? First of all, for children. As the TRM brochure states, “TOYS are the TOOLS children need to carry out their all-important task of playing. The act of playing is as important to a child’s emotional and mental development as food and shelter are to their physical well being.” Toy Rescue Mission also helps the elderly, providing lap robes and even toys for seniors in care facilities. People suffering from dementia often benefit from dolls and stuffed animals. Other programs give youth the opportunity to do community service projects coordinated through schools, churches, or even families who want to raise their kids with the idea of helping others. TRM gives people a fun place to volunteer, contribute to society, and make friends. It benefits huge numbers of citizens of all ages.
During my visit a group of teens and their adviser, from Truman High School in Federal Way, helped a family select toys, and I spoke with a young man named Nick Lewis as he worked at fixing a toy fire engine. He’d started out through his school but went on past the required time and has contributed about 20 hours of volunteering in the past three weeks.
I also heard, in a conversation with President Karol Barkley, about a local Eagle Scout named Issac Smith. She wants the community to know what he did. Issac independently organized a spaghetti fee, raising an astonishing $4,000.00. The cook graciously donated her time and effort to cook all the food. He used about $3,000 to buy toys for the TRM kids, then donated the remainder (after being reimbursed for his food costs) to TRM.
Another lady kept busy in a back room, bagging up the hundreds of stuffed animals she has personally cleaned by hand. All of them inspired in me the greatest respect and appreciation for good people quietly doing great things, the way Americans have always risen to meet challenges in our society.
Before I left a young mother came in with a baby in her arms and a son about four years old at her side. I’m not sure how she'll explain it, but “Santa” came through for those kids. I left then, hoping I could write words that would make people care about the things I’d seen and heard. The temperature outside remained well below freezing, but the warmth I experienced at Toy Rescue Mission stayed with me all the way home.
Note: Toy Rescue Mission is located at 607 S. Winnifred St., Tacoma, WA 98465, next to Tacoma Boys on 6th Ave. Please look at the website, www.toyrescuemission.org, or call the business office, 253-460-6711, to offer your help in the form of money, volunteer time, or gifts-in-kind so this good work can continue. THANK YOU!