More than 500 Enumclaw-area children received toys from last year’s Holiday Helping Hands event. Photo by Ray Miller-Still

More than 500 Enumclaw-area children received toys from last year’s Holiday Helping Hands event. Photo by Ray Miller-Still

Holiday Helping Hands toy drive ends Dec. 17

There’s still time to bring cheer to local kids

Enumclaw residents have about a week left to help bring cheer to local children this Christmas season.

Between now and Dec. 17, the Enumclaw Holiday Helping Hands program is collecting new, unwrapped toys, holiday food donations, and gift cards to local grocery stores in order to put on a large “shopping event” for local parents at the Enumclaw Expo Center on Dec. 18.

Holiday Helping Hands is the re-branding of the familiar Enumclaw Toys for Tots and Teens program, which was founded in the 1970s by the Retired Teachers Union but eventually taken over by the Enumclaw Fire Department and Karen Worthington, the previous lead of the program.

Now, the program is headed by Maryn Otto, a local firefighter, who is not only looking to continue this holiday tradition, but grow a new local nonprofit called the Plateau Kids Network (under which Holiday Helping Hands operates) to serve local children year round.

But back to Holiday Helping Hands: “We are a toy and food drive, with an emphasis on the toys,” Otto said in a recent interview. “It’s harder to go buy toys than buying food, if we have to.”

There’s not exactly a “wish list” for people who want to donate can follow; however, Otto has the goal of providing every child with “two stocking-stuffers, a book, a game or a puzzle, and a craft,” she said. “That’s our end goal.”

However, there is a special focus on making sure there are toys for teens – “We never have enough for teens,” Otto continued.

Last year, Holiday Helping Hands served about 175 families, or 504 children.

“We’re on point to do that, or just over, this year,” Otto added. “Which is pretty standard – you pick up a little bit each year.”

Folks looking to donate toys, $25 gift cards to local grocery stores (the drive’s second-biggest need), or non-perishable holiday goods can do so by dropping off donations at the Enumclaw Fire Department, Fugate Ford, Work-Sports & Outdoors, Grocery Outlet, or any of the numerous businesses around town that have a donation box marked with a Holiday Helping Hands poster; program volunteers will then finish collecting all donations on Dec. 17 so that the shopping event can be set up and ready to open on Dec. 18.

People that are looking to benefit from the program can do so by registering online at www.plateaukidsnetwork.com/holidayhelpinghands. According to Otto, the only requirement is that you live within the Enumclaw School District boundaries (though she specified that the kids do not need to attend an ESD school). The registration deadline is Dec. 15.

As a final thought, Otto wanted to make sure the community knows how integral Fugate Ford has been in making the Holiday Helping Hands program possible.

“I can’t even say that they’re a sponsor, because they’ve been intimately a part of this with us the whole time,” Otto said. “They’re part of our team.”

PLATEAU KIDS NETWORK

At the moment, the Plateau Kids Network is only a nonprofit in Washington state, and is still awaiting its 501(c)3 status from the federal government.

But that hasn’t stopped Otto and her volunteers from starting other programs to benefit local children.

The first is the Plateau Free Helmet campaign, which aims to provide children of all ages with a free bike or skateboard helmet. The program was started after a kid in Buckley suffered a fatal head injury when not wearing his helmet at the local skate park last spring.

Currently, the program runs 100 percent on donations comprised of new CPSC (Consumer Product Safety Commission) certified bike and skateboard helmets, which can be dropped off at the local fire department, police department or Rainier Foothills Wellness Foundation during business hours. Children looking to receive a new helmet can receive one at the Rainier Foothills Wellness Foundation between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m.

Another program isn’t children specific; called the Family Disaster Relief program, it aims to provide families with immediate necessities after a disaster.

“When families are displaced from a disaster like a fire, there’s a big gap in between them leaving that fire scene and Red Cross or [other] resources kicking in,” Otto said, adding that various local agencies work together to provide those families with “toiletries, a grocery gift card, some of the similar things that we do in the Christmas giving, but more like immediate needs.”

Finally, Otto is looking to start a non-religious youth group for local kids.

“We’re looking at putting on kids activities where we can support, inclusively, the kids of the community,” she said. “Maybe we’ll put on some classes like how to change your oil, or how to write a resume – things that we run into time and time again that, maybe as being missed at those younger ages.”

For more information about the Plateau Kids Network, you can visit their website at https://plateaukidsnetwork.com/ or their Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/PlateauKidsNetwork/.


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