November can be the month of giving and charity as the holidays approach. CROSS Services, a Rogers-based non-profit that provides supportive services to area communities, allows people to donate to its annual Toy Shop until Dec. 6. Toys can be dropped off at CROSS Services, located at 12915 Weinand Circle in Rogers.

CROSS serves the communities of Champlin, Corcoran, Dayton, Maple Grove, Osseo and Rogers

“I think why our community is so generous and loves to support CROSS and the Toy Shop, is that they know when they support these programs they are supporting the families that are in this community,” Director of Volunteers and Community Engagement Pat Schwalbe said. “There are other programs out there, but there is no guarantee when they donate where that’s going. They do wonderful work, and they’re fantastic, but what’s unique about us is when they donate here it stays here, it goes to the families that need it right here.”

For over 40 years, CROSS has been running the Toy Shop that allows families in need who are signed up with CROSS to get toys for their kids from birth to 10 years old for the holiday season. The toys in the gift shop are organized into age groups to make it easier on parents, with piles from birth to 3-year-olds, 4- to 7-year-olds then 8- to 10-year-olds.

Children who are 11- to 18-years-old receive $30 gift cards for places like Target, Walmart or Visa gift cards.

All families will also get a tie blanket and a stuffed animal. The families at CROSS can sign up for 20 minute shopping periods that start Dec. 1 through Dec. 22.

The shop is filled with thousands of toys. In 2020, the Toy Shop gave away toys and gift cards to 1,454 children.

“It is a big sea of toys,” Schwalbe said. “It’s exciting and overwhelming. You feel this is great the families are going to have a wonderful selection to pick from. It’s like a little toy store. Jam-packed. And that’s why we do sort them into ages so they don’t feel overwhelmed.”

The shop is set up and run by volunteer elves. There are shopping elves who will help families find the gift they need for their child and then help the families load the gifts into their cars, check-in elves and floater elves who help keep everything in stock.

Overall, the Toy Shop needs about 75 volunteers each year, all working three-hour shifts to make the shop run. Volunteers do not have to be regular CROSS volunteers to help with the Toy Shop and slots for the Toy Shop fill up fast every year.

“Our volunteers are excited to be here and help,” Schwalbe said. “Our motto is family first, so we just want our families to have the best experience we can give them. We couldn’t do any of this without our community. CROSS is completely community-supported. So, everything we do here is provided by the community.”

Harold and Dorothy Trombley are volunteer elves who helped to set up the Toy Shop. They both volunteer at CROSS to help with the other services but decided to put in more hours to make sure that the toy store was in tip-top shape and because of their love for Christmas.

“I was amazed at what we have up there already [in the Toy Shop],” Harold Trombley said. “I can’t get over the generosity of people.”

Dorothy Trombley does it for the love of seeing all the toys and the fun of the Toy Shop. “I don’t have grandkids anymore so I don’t see all these fun toys that these kids get anymore,” she said. “It’s fun.”

The volunteer elves, who will be helping the families shop starting Dec. 1, get festive by wearing Santa hats and fun or ‘ugly’ holiday sweaters.

The Toy Shop is set up by CROSS’s food shelf so families can get toys for their children and participate in the other services CROSS has to offer to make a holistic experience. CROSS also offers school supplies, senior food deliveries, clothing and household shopping and more.

“Here they’re setting the schedule that fits their life and they get to come to the appointment that works for them,” Schwalbe said. “So all of that makes for good feelings and less stress, they’re so happy and excited to be here. They know they can get their toy shopping done, get their groceries. It makes for a well-rounded experience.”

Families do not have to worry about CROSS running out of toys. According to Schwalbe, they replenish the shelves so often there are no bad appointments or days that someone can go into the Toy Shop.

“It’s upbeat and it’s fun because everyone has an appointment, they are relaxed and enjoying looking for toys,” Schwalbe said. “So they don’t feel the pressure [unlike if] 30 people are going through the stuff at the same time. We make it a very fun and upbeat experience where they’re shopping for their child and don’t have to worry that someone else is going to grab the toy. We are always replenishing our toys every day. So everyone is getting good quality and great things. ”

Donations can be delivered to CROSS from Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. Donations are open on Tuesdays from 9 a.m. until 7 p.m. until Dec. 6.

For more information about the Annual Holiday Toy Shop contact Pat Schwalbe at Pat@CROSSservices.org. Or to find out more about CROSS go to crossservices.org.

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