Unity Center toy drive expands in its fourth year

by: TIDINGS FILE PHOTO - West Linn families will get to purchase holiday gifts for just 25 cents each at the Unity Center.The elves at Santa’s workshop are not the only ones working frantically right now to make every child’s holiday season bright. The folks at the Unity Center in West Linn are also working to ensure every West Linn child has a present under the tree.

Now in its fourth year, the Unity Center is currently collecting donations for its 25 Cent Toy Day for Girls and Boys event.

The event offers a chance for low-income parents to “shop” for presents for just 25 cents each. The event started with just one school, Bolton Primary School, and 10 families. This year the center is working with the Bolton Head Start program and Willamette, Cedaroak Park and Trillium Creek primary schools and hopes to serve 40 to 50 families. The school counselors make recommendations about families who may need help.

On Dec. 15, Unity Center volunteers will turn the facility’s basement into a Santa’s workshop of sorts. Parents from participating families will be invited to pick out stocking stuffers, three toys, a book, a craft/art supply or a game for each of their children for a quarter each.

Upstairs, parents will be treated to holiday music, movies, hot cocoa and sweets while Unity Center volunteers wrap their children’s gifts.

A new partner this year is West Linn Lutheran Church, which is just across the street. Its members will provide free child care while parents are selecting gifts. The center is also working with Heart Center Montessori School and area businesses.

“We just thought what a great idea to support our local families,” said the Rev. Victoria Etchemendy. “We want to make sure every child gets a gift.”

The idea behind the 25 cent cost is so parents can proudly tell their children that they bought the presents.

“They can tell them, ‘I bought this for you,’” Etchemendy said. “It brings a sense of dignity and pride.”

Though a few toys may not seem like much to some, it can make a world of difference for the child receiving them and the parent getting to provide them.

“We’ve gotten feedback (about what a) difference we’ve made,” Etchemendy said.

Last year, after hearing about the event, a West Linn man came in with 20 art kits to donate. According to Etchemendy, he asked to have a picture taken of them as he was going to include it in his wife’s Christmas card. The donation was his gift to his wife, who “already had everything she needed.”

Donations of new and unwrapped toys, art supplies, board games, stuffed animals and gift cards for children ages infant to 18 are being accepted. Financial donations can also made via the center’s website and center volunteers will do the shopping for you. Donations can be dropped off at the center Monday through Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

With the help of about 30 volunteers, the donations are sorted and set up. On the day of the event, each parent signs up for a time slot to shop.

“I see a tremendous need and every year there is a family in tears because they don’t have the funds to buy presents,” Etchemendy said. “What is more wonderful than to make a child’s Christmas?”

For Etchemendy, the 25 Cent Toys for Girls and Boys is a win-win — parents are happy to be able to get gifts for their children, and the children are elated to receive the gifts.

“It touches the child and the parent. You’re supporting both ends of the spectrum,” Etchemendy said.

For more information or to schedule a donation drop-off after hours, call 503-697-9765 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. The Unity Center is located at 20255 Willamette Drive, West Linn.

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