High inflation affects Colorado Springs toy drives, which appeal for donations, volunteers

Dec. 6—Santa and his elves need help.

Several Colorado Springs toy drives could use donations and volunteers to make the holidays brighter for struggling families this year, as the Christmas countdown ticks away.

"We're seeing a much greater need based on the economy now," said Carol Reinert, vice president of the board of the Bob Telmosse Foundation.

The foundation runs the annual Santa Bob Giveaway and is short on contributions of new or slightly used bicycles as well as new, unwrapped toys for children ages 8 to 15 years old, she said.

The event normally gives away 1,000 bikes to children and teens but only has 600 donations in hand this year, with 10 days to go until the big event, Reinert said.

Donations can be dropped off at Ted's Bicycles Inc., 3016 N. Hancock Ave.

"The last thing we want is for kids to wait in line and we run out," Reinert said.

Donations of toys, clothing, household goods and Christmas decorations can be taken to Hot Tub Heaven, 4039 Tutt Blvd., and various businesses, including several dentists' offices, around the city. A list of drop-off sites is available at https://www.santa-bob.org/drop-off-locations-2022.html.

Colorado Springs businessman Bob Telmosse in 1983 started what's become a famously popular holiday charity event, after a phony ad in The Gazette said he was giving away free food.

The late Telmosse accepted the challenge and the following day provided no-cost food for the community.

The event ballooned and now distributes goods to thousands of people each year — with no sign up or qualification necessary.

Telmosse died in 2006, but his giving spirit continues under the direction of an all-volunteer force.

As per Telmosse's wishes, there are no questions asked of families who show up to take home generous donations, Reinert said.

This year's event begins at 9 a.m. on Dec. 17 at the Colorado Springs Event Center, 3960 Palmer Park Blvd., and goes until 3 p.m., or until supplies run out.

Each accompanied child receives a free toy, book and stuffed animal. They also can select a gift for an adult parent or guardian.

"They pick something out to give, so they learn the joy or giving as well as receiving," Reinert said. "They love coming out and saying, 'I got you something,' to their parents or guardians."

Each family can take home a bag of food and choose household items and clothing.

Sign up for free: Springs AM Update

Your morning rundown of the latest news from Colorado Springs and around the country overnight and the stories to follow throughout the day delivered to your inbox each evening.

Sign Up

View all of our newsletters.

Success! Thank you for subscribing to our newsletter.

View all of our newsletters.

Pikes Peak United Way's 2-1-1 phone hotline for community assistance with any kind of social and human service has fielded about 350 calls so far this season from people inquiring about where they can obtain free toys for the holidays, said Ange-Elie Jean, 2-1-1 director.

In comparison, the agency handled 287 calls in 2019, before the pandemic, she said.

"Families are debating whether to pay rent, put food on the table or being able to buy kids toys," Jean said.

The hotline refers callers to programs that have been researched and vetted, such as the Salvation Army's Angel Tree, Christmas Unlimited, churches, schools and other organizations that host toy distributions.

Christmas Unlimited on Monday began conducting annual appointments for parents to pick out donated toys for their children.

But the program needs the community's help to continue its giveaway, which lasts through Dec. 23, said Executive Director Mike Tapia.

"We're in real big need," he said. "Donations are down; toy drives have been much smaller than in the past.

"It's kind of a sign of the times, with items being expensive and people not having jobs."

The organization, founded in 1923 and now one of the region's oldest charities, is lacking toys, volunteers and collection drives for toys, Tapia said.

Donations of new, unwrapped toys are being accepted at all 23 fire stations in Colorado Springs, 16 Safeway stores in the region and the organization's office at 2204 E. Boulder St. The list of donation sites is on the organization's website, Christmasunlimited.org.

Christmas Unlimited also is seeking businesses, churches and other organizations to conduct toy drives for the organization, Tapia said.

People wanting free toys can still sign up. For information on how to apply, dial the 2-1-1 hotline from a mobile phone or landline.

Applications are available through various sites and can be returned via email, fax or by drop-off at the Christmas Unlimited office by Dec. 12.

Volunteers can sign up at Christmasunlimited.org.

The organization hopes to provide toys to 9,000 area children this year, Tapia said, and has been working with schools and service providers to identify the most poverty-stricken families.

Marine Toys for Tots Foundation is accepting donations of new, unwrapped toys at Abba Eye Care, 1813 N. Circle Drive, through Dec. 16, and Phil Long Ford dealerships through Dec. 21.

Local families who cannot afford to buy toys for their children can apply for assistance online at https://colorado-springs-co.toysfortots.org/.

Toys for Tots began in 1947 and is a national program of the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve, with local chapters.