Planning is well underway for a variety of annual holiday charity drives, according to Karen Ventura, director of the Dallas County Family Development Center, which coordinates the Toys for Tots program and as well as a winter coat drive and a Thanksgiving and Christmas basket program.

Donation drop-off points for the toy drive include Perry merchants such as Shopko, Van Wall Equipment, Showtime Dance and Tumbling Studio, Ben’s Five and Dime Store, US Cellular, Alco Discount Store, Hy-Vee, ViVi Nails and the Perry Public Library.

The toys will be distributed in the first week of December, Ventura said. John Andorf, president of the Perry Lions Club and Perry City Council member-elect, will lead the collection of toys, she said.

"We’re still accepting applications for Toys for Tots," Ventura said, "and we need help from the community to make this a successful event." She said donors can even adopt a whole family, reviewing the applications to learn the number and age of the children in the family, their clothing sizes and their favorite toys.

Last year the Dallas County Hospital Foundation adopted 50 children, Ventura said. "Adopting makes it more of a personal thing, makes a stronger connection with family itself."

She said confidentiality rules keep the identity of the applicants anonymous, but if a family feels comfortable in meeting its donor, then it can really turn into a heart-warming experience for everyone.

Many local business donate toys, she said, and this year members of the US Marine Corps from Des Moines will also bring up a load of toys, although the delivery date is as yet uncertain.

Last year’s drive distributed 2,500 toys to children of low-income families in the area.

The coat drive seeks warm winter outerwear and accessories, such as hats and gloves, in all sizes. It is not only for children, Ventura said, adding when families pick up their toys, they will also be given the opportunity to go through the coats and choose ones that fit.

The gift baskets are also extremely popular, Ventura said.

Between 60 and 70 families have already signed up for the Thanksgiving baskets, but limited funding means only 30 families will receive them.

Ten baskets will be donated by Iowa Hospice, with employees of Stein Seed also donating items and the Iowa Bank in Des Moines donating turkeys.

For more information or to arrange a donation, call Ventura at 515-465-5185.