Toys for Tots

Blessings Soup Kitchen kicks off their fifth annual Toys for Tots campaign. Residents can participate in the campaign by picking up a sign-up sheet from Blessings from now through Dec. 2.

OTTUMWA — Lunch isn’t the only thing on the menu at Blessings Soup Kitchen; Toys for Tots just got added, too.

This is the soup kitchen’s fifth year of participating in the annual Toys for Tots collection campaign. The annual toy collection campaign starts in October and ends in December.

Donors drop off new, unwrapped toys in collection boxes. A coordinator picks up the toys and stores them in central warehouses, where the toys are sorted and distributed to families in need.

Blessings co-founder Sheri Locke-Smith is the coordinator for Ottumwa’s campaign. She said parents and guardians have the opportunity to pick up a sign-up sheet at Blessings to express their interest in donating presents from now through December 2.

The sheets allow Locke-Smith to plan for how many presents she and Blessings volunteers will have to distribute to families in need. Distribution day is scheduled from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. December 17 at Blessings and Top Hat Coffee.

Locke-Smith and her husband Gary Smith put on the campaign each year because of their love for children and helping families.

“Well Christmas is hard because if you don’t have the money, but you have the kids,” Locke-Smith, “you want them to have something opened up on Christmas and every kid deserves to have something to open on Christmas.”

“It’s one of the most satisfying things you can do,” she added, “is take relief and give relief to the parents that are struggling on a day-to-day basis to pay their bills, to make sure their water is one, make sure their house is heated, etc.

Smith chimed in. “If we didn’t have this program, many of the parents with children wouldn’t get anything at all. We get stories every year on how it’s helped them. They come back and thank us because that’s the only thing they could come up with for their kids.”

Locke-Smith is determined to help as many families as she can this holiday season. If any family is in need of presents for their families she said they can come to the soup kitchen and she will give them an application to fill out, and someone will donate presents to them.

For more information on the local campaign, contact Sheri Locke-Smith at 641-777-7997.

Chiara Romero can be reached at


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