Tiffin Firefighters Local 322 Toy Project

The Toy Project started in the mid 1950’s.  This is a separate entity from the Marines “Toys for Tots”.  Back then toys were made mostly of metal and wood and that made it easy to repair and paint them to put them into nearly new condition.  The firefighters would use their “down time” to repair and fix donated toys.

Rob Bish, the Toy Project Chairman, became a firefighter in 1988 and started helping with the project and the Union Local 322 still took in used toys and repaired them if they could.  The age of plastics made it harder to fix them. At that time the local solicited the community for monetary donations and bought as many new toys as they could. One hundred to one hundred twenty five children were helped then and donations of cash came in between three and five thousand dollars.

From 1988 until 2003, needy families would fill out an application and if they met the requirements the firefighters would deliver a bag of toys for each child that qualified.  The only requirements were the children needed to be 8 years old or younger and live within the city limits. People from outside the city limits would apply and the Union would refer them to another agency. Extra toys that were bought or donated would be given to other agencies to help take care of those children.

In 2003, the Union decided to make some changes and try to get to a more personal level with the families that are helped.  We came up with the idea to have a “Breakfast with Santa”.  This was a big hit for both the children and parents of the families we help as well as the firefighters and their families as we get everyone involved.  Families come in for a free, hot breakfast and when they are through the children would visit our Santa Claus and get their bag of toys.

The Toy Project Committee takes care of soliciting funds, screening applicants, getting food items donated for the breakfast and selecting toys to be given out to each age group. Today the qualifications remain the same with the exception of raising the age limit to 10 years old or younger.    All money is spent locally and the community has been very receptive to our efforts.  Donations of new bicycles, smoke detectors and thousands of dollars come in year after year.

Last year we raised and spent over $10,000.00 on toys alone. The toys then get packaged up into the different age groups for either a boy or a girl. In 2009, we gave away toys to 383 children from the Tiffin area families and served over 400 breakfasts.