An important charity is asking for Moniteau County's help for the upcoming holiday season.
The closing of all Toys R Us stores in America has left the Moniteau County Toys for Tots in the hole for the 2018 Christmas season. Moniteau County Toys for Tots Coordinator Dan Mesey said this change has led him to ask for more county-wide assistance than last year.
"Toys R Us would give each county that holds a Toys for Tots program $2,000," Mesey said. "This was under the stipulation that the county would spend that two grand at Toys R Us. But because they closed all of their stores, we no longer have that money."
Not to be outdone, Mesey spends each day going from one business to the next in California and other Moniteau County towns to ask for assistance. In his travels, he has found "more support than you can imagine."
"Last year was the first year we did this," Mesey said of Moniteau County Toys for Tots. "It's like every new charity that comes into a new area. There's a tremendous amount of work that has to be done to lay a solid foundation. So, without that foundation, charities come and go."
Despite the incredible amount of work Mesey does each day, he keeps one thing in mind.
"My goal is to introduce Toys for Tots into Moniteau County so that 50 years from now, if there is a child whose parents can't afford a Christmas, Moniteau County will have a program be active and supply presents to those children."
Toys for Tots began making needy children's dreams come true in 1947. It was the brainchild of a commissioned officer in the Marine Corps who noticed an unfortunate amount of families who could not afford toys for the holiday season. A little insistence from the officer's wife led to the founding of Toys for Tots.
Mesey said the Marine Corps is the "only military branch in the United States that has a program to support citizens. They care very much for the kids in this country."
Some charities have grown to be mistrusted by the general public. This is due to fear and the unfortunate fact not every penny donated to certain charities is used for the purpose at hand. This is not the case with Toys for Tots. Every penny, Mesey said, goes straight to the foundation through a rigorous payment process with the Marine Corps.
"Every evening my wife, Carol, and I will spend about two hours on the computer filling out the information the Marine Corps requires from us," Mesey said. "I have to account for every single penny. If someone would write us a check, we only have 24 hours to get that check to the accounting office in Washington D.C. and they in turn put that money into a private account for Moniteau County.
"I do have a purchasing card, too. I use that card to purchase toys and, of course, that money comes from the Moniteau County account. 100 percent of the money that's donated to Moniteau County Toys for Tots program stays in the county."
Mesey went on to say it would be impossible to fraud the Toys for Tots program because of the intense set of checks and balances the Marine Corps has in place.
"The Marine Corps Toys for Tots program has such a high rating above all the top charities in the world," Mesey said. "Right now, it's at the top one percent. That's how good of a program this is."
This will be Moniteau County's second year having its own Toys for Tots program. Last year, the organization was able to give 300 children in the county toys for Christmas. The distribution process was a poignant one for Mesey.
"I had parents literally crying and thanking us for the donations," he said. "I cannot imagine the impact this program has on families that don't have any money to take care of their children."
The selection process for families begins with a form that shows the poverty level for families in the county. The families that are shown to be below the federal poverty level are then broken down into the number of children within the household.
If the parents have children and make under $12,000 per year, they immediately qualify for the Moniteau County Toys for Tots. The family is then sent a form asking to fill out their name, if they have a girl or boy, and the age group of those children. The form is then sent back to Toys for Tots and the toys will be sent out accordingly.
Another way Toys for Tots can work its magic is by going through the families that took part in the Buddy Pack program. A form is sent to superintendent Dwight Sanders, who then sends out a request to children in the school district that are in the Buddy Pack program. Mesey said it is entirely the parents' choice if they would like to respond and take part in the Moniteau County Toys for Tots program. These two ways are how families are identified to truly need gifts.
"I start taking donations and visiting with businesses on Oct. 1," he said. "I distribute toys out about a week before Christmas, but our work extends to Jan. 1."
Messey said any help that can be given to Moniteau County Toys for Tots will be well received and welcomed. Call 660-427-5645 for more information.