Drive-through event gives ‘toys for a cause’

Seventh annual Toys for Kids drive, facilitated by The Runestone Detachment of the Marine Corps League, helped over 250 families this year

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Two volunteers gesture to each other in the sanctuary of Reach Church. A bag of toys was carried out to a vehicle parked outside the church on Friday, Dec. 18, to a family who had preregistered to receive toys from the Toys for Kids program. (Jasmine Johnson / Echo Press)

Snowfalls are usually silent, but icy sprinkles could be heard landing softly on North Nokomis Northeast on Friday, Dec. 18. Vehicles circled through under the awning of Reach Church and pulled up to the front door of Love INC in Alexandria.

More than 250 families received toys and food in the drive-through Toys for Kids program, which was available from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Volunteers loaded garbage bags full of toys and totes of food into trunks the week before Christmas.

Although Toys for Tots is a national organization, The Runestone Detachment of the Marine Corps League in Alexandria started the Toys for Kids program locally seven years ago as a community service project, Grant Haugen said.

Haugen received the Minnesota Marine of the Year award at the Marine Corps League Department of Minnesota Convention in 2015 for his leadership and organization of the Toys for Kids program. Toys are donated by businesses and individuals from the community.

“One thing that amazes me is how people will donate toys for a cause,” Haugen said.


In addition to providing gifts to put under the Christmas tree, Alexandria Covenant Church and Cullen's Home Center also helped provide meals and prepare food baskets.

Families who preregistered received a number as they drove in, which coordinated with the numbered bags full of toys laid out in numerical order on the floor of Reach Church.

Those who heard about the program through word of mouth were directed across the street to Love INC. There, they could select presents for their families where items were separated into sections, from a 64-pack of Crayola crayons to pink-eared teddy bears, basketballs to long-sleeve flannel shirts.

Jasmine Johnson joined the Echo Press staff in May 2020 as a general assignment reporter. She grew up in Becker, Minn., and later studied journalism and graphic design at Bethel University in Arden Hills, Minn.
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