Column: Help everyday Minnesotans help needy kidsA record 247 million people around the country shopped during the recent Thanksgiving weekend’s “Black Friday” sales, spending more than $11 billion. In Minnesota, more than 200,000 shoppers were expected to visit the Mall of America with hopes of finding the “perfect” gifts for friends and family.
By: John Kline, The Republican Eagle
A record 247 million people around the country shopped during the recent Thanksgiving weekend’s “Black Friday” sales, spending more than $11 billion. In Minnesota, more than 200,000 shoppers were expected to visit the Mall of America with hopes of finding the “perfect” gifts for friends and family.
Despite new shopping records, America is in its slowest economic recovery since the Great Depression, and 23 million Americans are looking for work. Unemployment remains near 8 percent nationally and 6 percent in Minnesota — figures that don’t take into account the many who have given up looking for a job.
A month removed from the last election, Americans continue to debate — around dinner tables and on these very opinion pages — how we got here and what it is going to take to get our economy moving again. While lawmakers debate policies to move our nation forward, we cannot discount the important work being done by everyday Americans to serve those in need.
Those of you I have had the good fortune to represent over the years know I have a special place in my heart for the U.S. Marine Corps’ Toys for Tots program. Founded in 1947, the effort began when Maj. Bill Hendricks and a group of reservists in California collected and distributed more than 5,000 toys to needy children.
Last year, despite the sluggish economy and strain on reserve forces, Marines distributed more than 16 million toys to more than 7 million children, including 218,000 toys for almost 154,000 Minnesota children. Many of the gifts Toys for Tots provides, such as books, games, and sports equipment, make a significant contribution to the educational, social, and recreation development of these children.
Staff Sgt. Malek Neman, North Branch, is overseeing the Toys for Tots Minneapolis warehouse this year. Already, Neman estimates more than 17,000 toys have been donated and are currently housed in his warehouse.
“We’re ahead of the game and ahead of what we’ve done in the past,” Neman reports.
A Missouri boy’s battle with leukemia brought him and his family to Minnesota for world-class treatment. When a giant four-foot stuffed monkey arrived at the warehouse, Neman knew instantly where it belonged.
“We’re going to bring that huge monkey to the boy in the hospital and a bunch of other toys to his ward and try to make their Christmas a little bit better,” he said.
Even though collections are ahead of pace, the more toys the Marines collect, the more children they can serve. The Twin Cities warehouse is in special need of toys for teenage boys and girls. Neman reports that nail art and One Direction (English-Irish boy band) items are among the top requests for teenage girls, and kendamas (a toy used for the classic cup-and-ball game) are one of this year’s top toys for teenage boys.
Regardless of what you choose to donate, Neman encourages giving with your heart. “Whenever you can help people out, you should,” he said. “It’s more or less your duty to help other people out – if you’re able. That’s how I was raised and that’s what I believe.”
If you would like to join me in supporting the Toys for Tots effort, please bring your new unwrapped toys to one of numerous drop-off sites in the 2nd Congressional District. The last day for donations is Dec. 19. Please visit
http://red-wing-mn.toysfortots.org for a location near you.
Republican John Kline can be reached at 952-808-1213 or http://kline.house.gov