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Toy drive to benefit foster kids

Wondering how you can make a difference in the life of an at-risk child? Birthday Blessings is holding their Second Annual July Toy Drive to meet needs and spread cheer in Missouri foster community. Locally, they provide services to about 200 kids in state custody through the 37th Circuit Children’s Division in Howell, Oregon and Shannon Counties. 
 
The event is spearheaded by Jake Rigdon, a member of the nonprofit’s board of directors and staff member at the 18th Circuit Children’s Division in Sedalia. After spending more than 12 years working in the foster system, she has witnessed the impact of Birthday Blessing’s programs on this community. 
 
“So many things have to happen at once when a child enters care that birthdays or other special events are often not thought of,” Rigdon said. “Some kids enter care and they have never had a birthday party or a gift before. When they come into the office and see the birthday bags, they get very excited!” 
 
“We had one teen who cried when he got a graduation celebration bag from Birthday Blessings. He was overwhelmed that someone would think of him and his graduation,” she said. “We had another teen transitioning to independent living who had no way to cook. The nonprofit gave her a toaster oven, pans and basic utensils so she could prepare meals at home.”
 
Watching the nonprofit’s impact on kids in foster care gave her the idea to hold an annual toy drive. She approached the board of directors with the idea, and they unanimously approved it. 
 
“July is a great time for this event. People aren’t focused on other holidays like Christmas. I thought this would be a great way for each community to support kids locally,” Rigdon explained. “Last year was our inaugural year. We got a team together and publicized it through local media and online. We were really pleased with the amount support we received.”  
 
Shannon VonAllmen, the executive director of the organization, was excited to try the idea. It was different than any fundraiser they had held in the past.
 
“We serve kids in 30 counties spread throughout the state, so typical fundraising events like a gala aren’t effective for us. This was a way that people in all areas could participate,” said VonAllmen. “This toy drive is an opportunity for people, regardless of their geographic location, to add kindness and cheer to lives of kids.”
 
Currently, Birthday Blessings is most in need of gifts for teens. Suggested items are advanced Legos sets, sports balls, fishing equipment, KC Chiefs or Cardinals merchandise, ear buds, gaming headsets, lotion or bath sets, make-up or nail polish sets, craft kits, board games, and snacks that do not expire before 2025. 
 
They also need gifts rated safe for toddlers. Most requested items include developmental toys, toys that light up or make noise, vehicles, dolls, and toys to push across the floor or help a child learn to walk. Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Bluey and Cocomelon are popular with this age group. 
 
The drive will commence on July 1 and run through July 31. A collection boxes are located at Birthday Blessings, Ozark Hills Insurance, 37th North Realty Group, and Century 21 Ozark Hills Realty. Monetary donations can be made at www.birthday-blessings.org/donate. An Amazon wish list is posted on their website and Facebook page. Purchased items will be shipped directly to their building.
 
Items must be new and unopened, with no writing or organization advertisements on them.  For more information call 417-372-5306 or email office@birthdayblessings.onmicrosoft.com
 
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Howell County News

110 W. Main St.,
Willow Springs, MO 65793
417-252-2123

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