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Katie Moscowitz poses next to a stack of toys collected in the family’s 2020 toy drive.

A Brooklyn Park family’s toy drive collected more than 1,000 items for Toys for Tots this holiday season.

The COVID-19 pandemic did not stop the Moscowitz family from breaking their record of 774 toys, with 1,040 collected this year.

The 35-year-peak was “almost a bit overwhelming,”said Jerry Moscowitz. “It was amazing.”

The drive started when Moscowitz, a real estate agent, and other friends in the real estate business decided that rather than buy gifts for each other, they should donate gifts to a drive called Santa Anonymous.

As the years passed and the tradition continued, more friends and neighbors got involved with the donations. Moscowitz estimated they collected 40 toys in their 10th year of the drive.

“It just kept expanding,” he said.

Since then, the drive has grown to an annual party at the Moscowitz home, with 150-200 party-goers donating approximately 500-600 toys.

This year, however, a traditional party was not possible due to the pandemic, so the family instead hosted a two-day outdoor event Dec. 12 and 13 in front of their home, with snacks offered in the garage. They also commissioned buttons that read “2020 couldn’t stop me, I gave to the Moscowitz Toys for Tots party.”

The family never considered canceling the event. “We made a decision right off the bat that we weren’t canceling the party,” Moscowitz said. “We were just going to find ways to make it work in a safe way.”

Community support for the party this year was more than he had counted on.

“I thought if we got 300 or 400 (toys) we probably should be happy that we were able to do that,” he said.

“I think it resonated, the fact that a lot of people, there’s a lot of people hurting this year. You have a group of people that are probably better off than they’ve ever been this year because their pay hasn’t been effected, they’re working from home and actually they have less expenses. Then there’s that other group that is completely the opposite where they have lost employment.”

Donations poured in following social media posts and a story by CCX Media. People Moscowitz had never met before dropped toys off anonymously in the bin at the end of his driveway. Community member sent funds by Venmo or shopped the party’s Amazon wish list for toys. Neighbors posed in the Moscowitz front yard with toys for photos. The Brooklyn Park Fire Department stopped by in a ladder truck with a bag of gifts. People from five different states donated to the drive.

“It felt like a party,” Moscowitz said.

Once Amazon orders were filled and all was accounted for, there were toys stacked 4 and a half feet high covering the dining room.“We had never had anything like this,” he said.

The drive also has a unique status as the only residential property the Marine Corps was willing to stop at to pick up drive collections, according to Moscowitz. Two Marines spent more than an hour packing up the toys Dec. 15.

“This year what I was told was the only pick-ups they had that were larger than our party for the entire time have been consolidation stops with Fleet Farm and Menards where they’re picking up from all the stores, bringing it to one spot,” he said.

Follow Kevin Miller on Facebook at facebook.com/mnsunpost

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