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Toy drive tips: items for teens, resist donating used gifts

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Mike Moen

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(Prairie News Service) Christmas is a little more than two weeks away, and toy drives around the country are in full swing. A North Dakota organizer shares some things to keep in mind if you're planning a donation in the coming days.

Willy Soderholm, executive director of the Community Action Partnership office serving a seven-county area in the state's Minot region, leads a team that carries out an annual holiday effort to provide toys for low-income families. He said that a common struggle most years is a need for gifts for teenagers, citing things you can get for this age group that shouldn't cost more than $20.

"They always like electronics," he said, "you know, headphones, earbuds, mini speakers you can get."

He said room decorations or body-care gift sets also work for older kids. This year, Soderholm said his office needs more toys for boys between ages 5 and 10. If you live in an area with a diverse population, he recommended considering culturally appropriate gifts.

Organizers urge checking messaging sent out by local toy-drive leaders, to find out which donations are in demand and what age groups they serve.

While most people might buy a gift and drop it off at a nearby donation bin, Soderholm said there have been instances of used toys being donated in his region. The thought is appreciated, but he said kids in need should always feel the joy of opening a brand-new gift during the holidays. And something used isn't easy for the staff, either. 

"We don't have the capacity or the ability to repair some of these toys," he said, "and typically, you know, they would have to be sanitized."

Community Action Partnership's toy drive in the Minot region allows eligible parents to schedule an appointment and come and choose gifts for their children. The office anticipates helping 250 families this year, with Soderholm noting many households are struggling with high rent costs and grocery bills.