Toy shelf opens for families in need

As “The Bridge Builders” get to work boosting North St. Paul’s image and trying to draw the community together, two local women have launched an effort to help local families — and children — in need.

“We were at a Bridge Builders meeting and they were encouraging us to think of ways to reach out to the community,” longtime North St. Paul activist Norma Worm said. “This just seemed like a need to be met.”

Worm and Dawn Peterson, who’d both been in the women’s branch of the Jaycees together some years ago, pooled their ideas for The Toy Shelf, a non-profit organization dedicated to supplying toys, at no charge, to those going through tough times.

In researching the idea, the women found many advocates for impoverished families who told them parents have lots of organizations to draw on for gifts during the holidays, but very little help with other milestones such as children’s birthdays. It just made sense to Worm and Peterson that parents would want to provide something for their children at a time other than late December.

The Toy Shelf opened July 5 inside Specialty Floral, 2553 E. Seventh Ave. in downtown North St. Paul. The North St. Paul Area Emergency Food Shelf has offered to distribute flyers to its clients to help direct them to the shelf, and Worm has given information to local churches as another point of contact.

So far, Worm said, she hasn’t considered limiting recipients to North St. Paul residents. The food shelf serves residents from the area covered by School District 622, including Maplewood and Oakdale, and churches tend to have even wider reach.

The Toy Shelf will be open from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Tuesday and Thursday. Dropoff boxes for new or gently used toys have been set up at North St. Paul City Hall and the North St. Paul Community Center.

In sorting the toys she has already received, Worm said she found she had quite a few stuffed animals and books, but only three “toys” — a pair of plastic trains and a plastic car. Though the “stuffies” and books are great to have, it would help if people thought about the toys their children, grandchildren or nieces and nephews seem to spend the most time playing with, and consider donating that kind of toy.

The Toy Shelf will also accept cash donations to help with purchasing for hard-to-serve age groups — such as older kids — and to make sure the shelf has a variety of toys on hand. Donations may be mailed c/o Norma Worm to Anchor Bank, 2700 E. Seventh Ave., North St. Paul, MN, 55109.

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