MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The 39th annual United Way of Monongalia and Preston Counties Holiday Toy and Food Distribution will look a lot different this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Usually, the event is held on one day in early December at the West Virginia National Guard Armory. Still, this year United Way and its partners don’t have access because of COVID-19. Instead, they will have the two events separately to mitigate the risk for all those involved. Servando Arredondo, United Way’s engagement manager, said the toy distribution would happen over the course of November and December and be collected downtown at Christian Help.
We have adapted to the situation and definitely changed up a few things. For the toy portion of the event, individuals have had the opportunity to register since the beginning of October. The last date for registration is Oct. 30, which is this Friday. What they’ll do if they’re interested in registering for toys is — you can go to our website unitedwaympc.org. And on the homepage there, there’s a Holiday Food and Toy Distribution banner that you will click on, and that will get you to a registration application form that you will fill out online.Servando Arredondo – Engagement Manager
Filling out a form, Arredondo said, does not guarantee that a family will receive toys because there is a limit of 400 families that can receive toys this year. If a family has multiple kids, they will still be counted as one family, and all kids can receive toys.
The reason for the limited distribution, Arredondo said, is because they haven’t collected as many toys as they’ve had in previous years. That’s because organizers have been unable to rely on picking up toys in person or the big drives they have with schools competing against each other to donate food and toys.
As for the food distribution, that will all be on one day, Friday, Dec. 4, at the old Ramada Inn on Scott Ave from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Unlike with the toys, the public does not have to register for the food distribution. Arredondo said to keep in mind that they will be distributing food until it all runs out.
The food will be provided by the Mountaineer Food Bank, which will provide a full truckload of food. The Monongalia Co. Humane Society will provide food for various pets, not just cats and dogs. Even in a different and limited capacity, being able to provide these services still feels good, Arredondo said.
“We’re still very happy,” Arredondo said. “We had some concerns there toward the end of the summer when we began to plan for this event, we were worried that we wouldn’t be able to have the event at all, but with the minds of everybody coming together to figure out this unique plan — it’s definitely a unique plan– we’ve been able to continue serving the community with an event that’s been going on, I think this is its 39th year. We’re not taking a break. We’re still going at it. We found a way to adapt and overcome this year. That’s kind of part of our campaign theme and motto.”
“We’re excited to do it,” Arredondo said. “It has been very weird getting everything planned for it because it is kind of spread out over such a long period of time, but we’re still happy to serve the community in this way.”
Arredondo said the partnership that allows all of this to happen is obviously among the United Way, Christian Help and Monongalia Co. Humane Society, but they get a lot of support from their sponsors DTE Energy and Kroger.
If members of the public want to donate to the holiday distribution, the best way to do so is through monetary donations, since they can’t collect items like normal, Arredondo said.
“That’s going to allow us to pick the toys more specifically for the individuals that register since we’re really not doing any public collection this year,” Arredondo said.