Mankato Toys for Tots distributes toys to over a thousand families

Dec. 17—MANKATO — The Mankato Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots program distributed toys to over a thousand families Saturday.

This year, 1,044 families from Blue Earth, Waseca, Nicollet and LeSueur counties were registered compared to last year's 850.

For parents like Yessenia Sauceda, the annual distribution is an opportunity to make sure her kids still get gifts as costs continue to rise.

"One of the reasons is because we've been having financial issues. With all the prices going up, it's very hard. I have six children. To be able to pay mortgage and everything else, it's so complicated to be able to get them their gifts and everything. This is something that we really appreciate," she said.

Sauceda, who is participating in the program for a second year, said her kids have enjoyed the gifts they've received in the past.

"Last year they ended up getting a lot of baby dolls, and they love babies. My sons are really into football, and they got a lot of football stuff," she said.

Toys for Tots coordinator Pam Hammock said that this year, the organization has also seen increased toy donations.

Close to 14,000 toys were donated, enough to fill two and a half semi-trucks, Hammock said.

"Last night we had two and a half semis. I had about 45 volunteers. It took us two hours to get all of this," she said.

Hammock said the organization averages around 60 volunteers.Volunteer Lexi Nelson said helping families is an impactful way to give back to the community.

"It just fills our hearts with joy. It's just nice to give way more than to receive," she said.

Hammock said any toy that isn't distributed will be stored for next year and added that she's thankful for the community's support.

"I'm very grateful for the community. We would not be able to do this without the community's support. We're blessed."