CALUMET - The Houghton and Keweenaw county Toys for Tots campaign is well under way and several community organizations are doing their part to help the cause.
For the last several years, Hancock business Sew Sisters, the Houghton High School Student Council and the Calumet High School Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps cadets have been assisting the Marine Corps Reserve detachment in the four-county area to collect toys for children in Houghton and Keweenaw counties.
The Houghton High School Student Council is in the middle of its annual Toys for Tots drive.
"The kids like to be involved in the community and it's such a great organization and such a great charity to be involved with," said Andrew Vestich, student council advisor and government and economics teacher.
To increase the number of toys collected each year, the student council oversees a competition.
"We set it up as a competition between the classes and we've found it serves as added incentive," Vestich said. "The freshmen want to do well. The seniors want to beat the juniors and the juniors want to beat the seniors, so we play on the rivalries."
The Calumet JROTC also organizes a Toys for Tots collection campaign.
"Our cadet officers take charge of the whole process," said Maj. Michael Farley, senior army instructor of the JROTC program for Calumet and Lake Linden-Hubbell high schools. "They coordinate with the high school, middle school and elementary school staff and ask for announcements to be made throughout the district."
The JROTC also enhances donations through friendly competition between the different JROTC cadet classes.
"The leaders motivate their students to participate in the competition and they really enjoy doing it," Farley said.
During the campaign, boxes are placed in the high school, middle school, elementary school and the Calumet Colosseum for drop-off during hockey games.
Sandy Coponen owns Sew Sisters, which has also been a designated Toys for Tots collection point for several years.
"The first 80 people (to drop off a toy) receive a gift from Sew Sisters," Coponen said. "We still have quite a few left."
Although the Toys for Tots campaign is for children from newborn to 18, Coponen said infants and teens are often the most difficult to buy for and experience the greatest shortage. She encourages people to bring in diapers and clothing for infants and look to technology for the teens.
"Teens really enjoy the hand-held games, disposable cell phones, artsy things, skateboards and snowboards, cool hats and gloves and cool boots," Coponen said.
To Coponen, the campaign is important because there is a need in the area.
"I believe every child deserves a messy living room on Christmas morning no matter what their situation," Coponen said.
These organizations have been working with the Marine Corps detachment for several years, but the detachment is always willing to work with new organizations.
"If somebody new steps forward, I'll work more closely with them, give them ideas on what they can do and give them some support as far as donation boxes, banners and posters to publicize the program," said Jim Mattson, Toys for Tots campaign coordinator for Houghton and Keweenaw counties.
New to the campaign last year were the Phi Delta Chi sorority and Chi Rho fraternity from Michigan Technological University. They are continuing their involvement this year by organizing a spaghetti dinner today at St. Albert the Great Parish in Houghton from noon to 5 p.m. All proceeds from the event will be donated to the local Toys for Tots campaign to be used to purchase additional toys.
Last year the Toys for Tots campaign in the Copper Country collected 4,000 toys for approximately 1,100 children in the four-county area through toy and cash donations.
"The whole Toys for Tots campaign is really a beautiful example of cooperation between all of the various organizations in the Copper Country to benefit our local children," Farley said.