Eastern Iowa charities pivot to virtual toy drives, donations, drop-offs for holiday giving

Tracy Hoskins of Cedar Rapids browses an aisle of gifts with Salvation Army volunteer Allison Brunk at the 2013 Toys for
Tracy Hoskins of Cedar Rapids browses an aisle of gifts with Salvation Army volunteer Allison Brunk at the 2013 Toys for Tots distribution at Hawkeye Downs in Cedar Rapids. This year’s distribution will be by appointment only Dec. 9 and 10 at the same site. (The Gazette)

In the midst of the pandemic and on the heels of the derecho, area nonprofits and social service agencies are seeking new ways to spread cheer across the ages. Here’s a look at some of the ways the public can add some happy to the holidays, through online donations and drop-off sites.

Families Helping Families toy drive

• Cedar Rapids: Each December, Families Helping Families hosts a Winter Wonderland Holiday Celebration for more than 1,000 members of the foster care community.

“We typically partner with 40 local businesses to host Giving Trees on our behalf. Due to COVID-19, most of these businesses are closed, with their employees working remotely. Because of this, we are collecting toys virtually this year,” Executive Director Melissa Carlson said in announcing this year’s alternate plan.

Click on the event tab at to find the organization’s Amazon and Target shopping list. Donations will be collected through Nov. 20, and can be shipped to Families Helping Families, 3516 Center Point Rd. NE, Cedar Rapids, IA 52402.

To make a financial donation to help purchase toys, go to, click on Donate Now! and select 2020 Holiday Toy Drive.

The celebration is moving to a drive-up event from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Dec. 5 at Cedar Hills Community Church, 6455 E Ave. NW, Cedar Rapids. The event is free for children in foster care, relative- or other approved placements, and those adopted from foster care. Preregistration is required. Foster parents and caregivers can register their families at

For more information, email or call (319) 294-9706.

Foundation 2

• Cedar Rapids: Children served by Foundation 2’s emergency shelter need socks and underwear, puzzles and games, sports equipment, arts and crafts supplies, basic hygiene supplies and books for preteens and teens.

Donations can be dropped off from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday at 1714 Johnson Ave. NE, Cedar Rapids. Deadline is Dec. 18. Cash donations will support recreational opportunities for the youths.


For more information, go to

Linn Community Food Bank

• Cedar Rapids: The Linn Community Food Bank seeks cash and food donations to fill holiday baskets. The food menu includes: French fried onions, stuffing mix, scalloped potatoes, canned creamed corn, canned pumpkin, boxed spice cake mix, canned white frosting and gelatin.

Food and cash donations can be dropped off from 1 to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday at First United Presbyterian Church, 310 Fifth St. SE, Cedar Rapids, or call (319) 364-3543. For information, go to

Meals on Wheels

• Joy Drive: Donations are being accepted through Dec. 11 for Horizons’ Meals on Wheels Joy Drive, to provide hot meals, as well as two week’s worth of frozen meals and a gift bag to 700 Eastern Iowa seniors.

The first holiday meal will be delivered before Thanksgiving, and the second one in late December.

Items needed for the gift bags include Visa gift cards, envelopes and stamps, notepads, pens and pencils, crossword puzzles, word search puzzles, playing cards, iTouch Slim Wristbands and sugar-free candy.

Drop off gift bag items at all CRBT locations, or ship from the Amazon Affiliates page to 819 Fifth St. SE, Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401. To find the Amazon Affiliates page or to make a cash donation and see other options, go to

• Home For The Holidays: Last year, Horizons’ Elder Services program provided 70,000 meals in Johnson, Washington, Cedar and Iowa counties. These deliveries also provided wellness checks on homebound older adults.

Through the Home for the Holidays program, hot meals will be delivered to older adults on Thanksgiving and Christmas days. The Christmas meals also will include a gift bag and homemade card. To donate, go to

Toys for Tots

• Cedar Rapids: The Salvation Army and Toys for Tots are again partnering to bring Christmas cheer and hope to Linn County children from newborns to age 14. Online registration runs through Nov. 30 and donations will be accepted through Dec. 4.

Toys for Tots is a national program directed by the United States Marine Corps and has been active in the Cedar Rapids community since 1949. Last year, the local Salvation Army, Toys for Tots and other community partners collected and distributed gifts and food to more than 2,500 children throughout Linn County.

This year’s toy drive ends Dec. 4. For details, go to


Toys and food distribution for those who have registered will be held by appointment from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Dec. 9 and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Dec. 10 at the Hawkeye Downs South Expo Building, 4400 Sixth St. SW.

To register just for Christmas Food, go to or call (319) 364-9131.

“The Salvation Army, along with our friends at Toys for Tots, are dedicated to helping families during Christmas experience the joy of the season and making certain parents are able to put a gift under the tree and food on the table for every child,” said Captain Shawn DeBaar, corps officer for The Salvation Army.

• Johnson and Washington counties: For complete details on donating new, unwrapped toys online and at drop boxes, as well as making monetary donations or registering family recipients, go to

Toy collection deadline is Dec. 7; family registration deadline is Nov. 25.

Waypoint Wonderland

• Cedar Rapids: Because of COVID concerns, Waypoint Wonderland is offering an “adopt-a-family” event this year. Community residents and businesses are invited to adopt Waypoint families who are experiencing homelessness, poverty or violence.

Last year, the organization provided gifts for more than 500 children, and each parent also received a gift.

Donors should register by Dec. 11. Adopted families will provide gift ideas for each child, then donors are asked to deliver wrapped gifts by Dec. 20 directly to the family, if given permission. Otherwise, Waypoint staff will coordinate delivery Dec. 17 and 18.

For details, go to and click on Waypoint Wonderland.

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