CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA)–“We don’t just give a toy at Christmas time. It’s not just a toy. It’s what that toy represents. It’s what that toy means. It’s hope,” said Ceasar Perez, Champaign County Toys for Tots Director. Each year they collect gifts for children, but there have been some big obstacles along the way.
“With COVID, we have been impacted significantly on all fronts,” said Perez. They normally have about 150 drop off locations. However, this year they were only able to have about 11 or 12 places with boxes. “With the inability for us to be able to have businesses open, we don’t have the ability to get toys in there,” said Perez. Last year, they gave out over 36,000 toys and helped over 4,800 children.
The Salvation Army says they are noticing a greater need for help. “Really high, higher numbers. It’s really unprecedented,” said Paula Santiago, with The Salvation Army serving Champaign and Vermilion County, “Many families unfortunately have been impacted in that they have had to choose between paying bills and paying rent versus having to buy presents for their children this year.”
“We also have the problem that there are less people who are able to donate because the business owners who had their businesses impacted are no longer able to give because the revenue streams have been cut significantly,” said Perez. However, they plan to find a way to help families. “One way or another we’re going to find a way to take care of Christmas for all those kids in Champaign County that really need it,” said Perez.