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ST. MARYS — As local residents take to the stores on Friday to begin holiday shopping, one local business owner says he hopes those shoppers pick up a little extra for those in need.
The annual Toys for Tots campaign kicked off this week. Local Coldwell Banker owner Steve Mackenbach delivered barrels to more than two dozen local businesses and factories with the goal of collecting toys for the annual Goodfellows program, which distributes the items to needy families in the St. Marys School District.
“I don’t know how exactly long I have been doing it but it’s probably been around 20 years,” Mackenbach said. “Coldwell Banker has helped sponsor the program in whatever towns they are in and I got information about it and thought it would be something I would like to do.”
Initially, Mackenbach said he was unsure if there was a need for such a program in St. Marys. However as he got more involved, Mackenbach realized the need was real.
“I was amazed at how many families with children in this area are in need of food and toys,” Mackenbach said.
“So I just started working on it.”
Mackenbach, who often dresses up in the same sweater every year for deliveries, said he enjoys delivering the barrels each year. He thanked the local businesses and factories for making the program a success and noted those who benefit from it are quick to thank him.
“One thing I always remember is there is a lady who comes into the office every year, and I’ve never met her, she brings in $25 and a few toys,” Mackenbach said. “The reason she does it is because when she was a kid, they didn’t have anything and this program allowed them to have Christmas. And that’s what it is all about.”
The fact the toys remain in the community is something Mackenbach said keeps him coming back each year. It’s also something he hears from the public.
“We’ve had that discussion with certain people,” Mackenbach said. “All of it stays local — everything does. We’re helping this community — period.”
Mackenbach said the drive amasses scores of toys for all ages. However, he noted one particular age group sometimes gets lost in the shuffle.
“The biggest age group that we don’t get things for are the older kids,” Mackenbach said of the teens.
“It’s probably because they don’t think about it. There are teenagers in these families, too.”
Toys will be collected until Dec. 19. After that date, the toys will be delivered to the St. Marys Armory where a throng of volunteers will sort and wrap the gifts to be delivered on Dec. 24.
“It’s probably my favorite thing that I do every year,” Mackenbach said.
“It’s a community thing and I see results of people getting something that they enjoy and maybe they are a little more glad about living in St. Marys.”
For more information, contact Mackenbach at 419-394-7402 or visit Coldwell Banker at 156 E. Spring St., St. Marys. Nationally, Toys for Tots is a major project of the Marine Corps Reserve.