Toys for Tots seeks new home for warehousing, distribution

Central Indiana’s Toys for Tots organization is looking for a new place to call home, as it vacates its space at the Gleaner’s Food Bank headquarters this summer.

The not-for-profit, which is supported by the U. S. Marine Corps Reserve, is looking for up to 10,000 square feet of ground-floor warehouse space that could be leased year-round for a nominal fee—less than $3,000 per year—beginning ahead this year’s campaign, which launches in December.

Toys For Tots has used back-of-house space at Gleaners Food Bank’s west-side facility for three years, but is leaving the space as Gleaners prepares to install an additional set of refrigeration and freezer units.

“I can’t even express how wonderful they’ve been,” said Sabrina Young, local civilian coordinator for Toys for Tots. “I’m in mourning, but we’ve been there for three years and it’s been a great partnership.”

She said Gleaners offered an upstairs storage space at their building, but Young declined because it is not feasible to carry tens of thousands of toys to a building’s second level.

In addition to serving Indianapolis, the local Toys for Tots program provides gifts for needy families in Boone, Brown, Clinton, Hamilton, Hendricks, Johnson, Monroe, Montgomery, Morgan, Owen, and Putnam counties.

The Toys for Tots program was founded in California in 1947. Since 1991, it has been run by the not-for-profit Marine Toys for Tots Foundation.

Young said she has spoken with dozens of local property owners and brokers over the past few weeks, but with no luck finding a suitable location. She said the warehousing budget for Toys for Tots is limited to $3,000 annually because most of the funding goes toward buying toys for children.

“Unfortunately, it’s not very much money that we have budgeted for overhead, as far as rent goes,” she said.

In 2019, the local Toys for Tots distributed 53,535 toys to more than 40,800 children, through partnerships with about 115 not-for-profits. Young said Toys for Tots has not yet determined whether it will hold a collection this year or ask for cash donations and then purchase the toys on its own, due to the coronavirus pandemic. It already has spent about $30,000 on toys this year.

Young said the minimum space requirement is 5,000 square feet, and a suitable location would ideally have a loading dock. Although the group is willing to share the space with another entity, she hopes to find a long-term warehouse solution for the organization.

Toys for Tots often receives labor assistance from volunteersd and local Marines, including those working near Fort Harrison State Park, so a location in or near Marion County would be ideal, Young said.

“You know, Marion County would be great, because the further away we get from the Fort and from Lawrence, the less likely [the Marines] are to be able to come help,” she said. “But I need space for our program and I don’t feel like I have the luxury to be picky.”

Either way, Young is hopeful the group lands on its feet with a new space soon because Toys for Tots “truly makes a difference” for struggling families, she said.

“Especially this year with this pandemic, it’s very important, because there’s just been so many people that have lost their jobs,” she said. “It’s going to be a very hard Christmas, financially, for many families. So we just want to be able to give them one thing to make them realize that they still matter … and show that somebody’s still thinking of them.”

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