PORTLAND, Ore. — The KGW Great Toy Drive is your chance to make the holidays brighter for local families. By partnering with local nonprofits, such as the Milwaukie-Portland Elks, gifts go to kids who need them the most.
“Fun, adventurous, and making me want to pull out my hair,” Nichol Chartrand said when talking about her family.
She’s a proud mom of two high-energy boys, 4-year-old Harry and 8-month-old Levi.
“So, my life is pretty busy with them,” she said.
She is also a member of the Oregon Army National Guard.
“I’ve been in for a little over 10 years now,” she said. “I joined when I was 17. I’ve loved it and have been in it ever since.”
A job she loves, but one that comes with unique challenges. That’s why the Elks Lodge Milwaukie-Portland chapter has made it a mission to provide extra support for military families.
“As long as there are veterans, the Elks will never forget them,” Milwaukie-Portland Elks Veterans Coordinator Emma Pletz said. “We feel that it’s our obligation to give back to them and we love doing it.”
In addition to providing scholarships, grants, wildfire relief and other community projects, this local Elks group focuses on projects that serve the medical and housing needs of the military community.
“It’s just a mission that the Elks have, to help veterans, because they’ve given so much to our nation,” Pletz said.
For Christmas, military families who have had an especially hard year are given a full holiday feast and toys, made possible through donations to the KGW Great Toy Drive.
“It makes your soul feel so good to know that they have something to put under the tree and that their kids are going to have a normal Christmas when they might not have had one otherwise,” Pletz said.
One of those families is Chartrand's.
“A couple years back we went through a little bit of a rough patch and without them and without the toy drive and stuff like that we wouldn’t have been able to have the same Christmas that we were,” Chartrand said. “It’s pretty amazing as a parent to watch them light up like they do on Christmas.”
With the trials of 2020, Chartrand knows even more families, military and civilian, will need some extra magic this holiday season.
“This year it’s going to be more like trying to provide normalcy for families that might not be able to have normalcy and haven’t’ had it in a long time because of everything,” she said.
A simple teddy bear, makeup kit, or board game can take away a piece of parental stress, burden, worry.
“The toy drive is more than just toys. It’s something to share with a family and excitement,” Chartrand said. “Whether it’s military or civilians, just reach out to somebody and help them out.”
Learn more about the KGW Great Toy Drive and donate now at kgwtoy.com.