This Friday, Dec. 8, families participating in Toys for Tots will receive their bags full of gifts. The program allows community members, groups, and organizations to give back during the holidays, providing families with gift donations and everyday goods.

Families signed up for the donations through New Opportunities with an enrollment date of Oct. 30.

“They have to be able to qualify because they have to be able to participate in one of those programs and they fill out the form,” says Toys for Tots volunteer, Linda Andorf. “We only go to age fourteen.”

At the end of the enrollment period, New Opportunities is informed of how many are involved, the age category, and then Toys for Tots volunteers are notified, Andorf says.

The enrollment period is not a cutoff, however. In the past, donations have been put together last-minute for families in need.

“There have been Friday afternoons where someone will call and say ‘I just lost my job’ so we scramble, we find things,” Andorf said.

Both Linda and John Andorf have been involved in Toys for Tots for a number of years.

“They’ve been doing Toys for Tots out here for a long time and it was like after he [John Andorf] retired, and hes been out eight years,” Andorf said. “It would have been the next year that we started, so about 7 years.”

Starting in October, the Andorfs approached businesses around town asking to place a box in their business.

“John and I start contacting local businesses,” Andorf described. “He calls and we get a donation from the Foundry, from Wiese, and we hit some of the local organizations like Retired Teachers have donated toys and money.”

Donations arrive from all over town: local businesses, round-ups provided by Perry’s Hy-Vee and Fareway, as well as cash donations to purchase the toys.

“The hardest to fill are the boys and the girls from fourteen [years old],” Andorf said. “What they want are expensive things, and it’s easy to go buy for the little kid, for some of the older ones it becomes a challenge.”

When families come in to retrieve their gifts, they also have the opportunity to enter a drawing for one of the extra gifts available: five bikes, two children’s picnic tables, a Wii, two child’s walkers. All of which have been donated items, Andorf says. Those who win will be contacted at the end of Friday.

“It’s one extra, and it’s an opportunity to pick something else,” Andorf said.

Families are always appreciative of the donated gifts to their families.

“I think a lot of them are very grateful when they come,” Andorf said.