Local union donates $4,500 to Toys for Tots


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Hundreds of children in Johnson County who otherwise might not get anything on Christmas will wake up on Christmas morning with presents to unwrap, thanks again to a gift from a local union.

2013 is the third year the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Local 2985 has donated to Toys for Tots. In the past, the union has shopped for toys and kept them in storage until a representative of the charity could pick them up. This year, that wasn’t an option.

“They had too much money to go shopping themselves,” said Larisha Richardson, an employee of the Salvation Army, who was in charge of purchasing toys with the donated money. “There wasn’t space for them to store all the toys they would have bought.”

This year, AFSCME Local 2985 donated $4,500 to Toys for Tots. In 2011, when the giving began, it donated $1,500. In 2012, it increased to $1,700.

The “generous” size of the donation is due to the availability of extra funds at the end of the year as well as increased union membership, said Amber Moats, executive board member of Local 2985.

“We thought, ‘We can do more than we have before,’ so we did,” she said. “We’ve met a lot of locals who are very generous around Christmas time. We wanted to be that generous.”

The donation is far and away the largest Toys for Tots has received in Johnson County, Richardson said.

“I was just blown away,” she said. “This will put smiles on a lot of kids’ faces.”

The $4,500 gift will provide Christmas presents for between 225 and 300 children, from newborns to teenagers, in Johnson and Washington Counties. Each child will receive two larger gifts based on their age and gender, a teddy bear, and an assortment of stocking stuffers.

The tradition of donating to Toys for Tots was started to honor members of the union who returned from overseas deployment in the armed forces in 2011.

“They wrote us a blank check,” Moats said. “We wanted to do something in return. We asked them what we should do, and one of them suggested giving to Toys for Tots.”

AFSCME Iowa Council 61 represents 40,000 public employees, including law-enforcement and correctional officers, firefighters, mental-health workers, professional school staff, and emergency workers.

Toys for Tots in Johnson County is being conducted by the Salvation Army this year, as the former director of Toys for Tots left Johnson County in 2012. The Salvation Army will accep toy donations through Dec. 18, when the toys will be distributed.

AFSCME Local 2985 will continue to donate to Toys for Tots in the future, Moats said.

“I don’t see why we wouldn’t,” she said. “It honors our veterans and the whole community benefits. Hopefully, it will be an even bigger check next year.”

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