Home Kid toys From Nothing to Something: Local Woman Creates Toys for Tots Program at Oconto Co. | WFRV Local 5

From Nothing to Something: Local Woman Creates Toys for Tots Program at Oconto Co. | WFRV Local 5

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(WFRV) – The Toys for Tots program is well known across the United States, and here in northeast Wisconsin, Stacy Suarez of Oconto has made it her mission to make sure every child in our community have a Merry Christmas.

Six years ago, the place where Stacy’s husband worked was going through tough times and they were having layoffs, “I just didn’t know we’d really be able to have a Christmas for the kids.” So she contacted Marine Corp. Toys for Tots Green Bay for help putting presents under the tree for her four children, but what happened was unexpected.

“They said, oh, I’m sorry, we’re not helping Oconto County,” Suarez said. That’s when she decided she wanted to do something for all the parents who couldn’t afford to give their kids a Merry Christmas around the county. Toys for Tots of Brown County asked him to start a program in Oconto County, and with the help of the Kewaunee County Chapter and First Presbyterian Church, they opened a store with donations.

“I want to help because I felt so many people who needed help weren’t able to get it. So I wanted to help make the kids’ Christmas here in Oconto and Oconto County better than this because I know how hard it can be to get kids Christmas presents,” Suarez said. While at first she felt guilty for using the program for her family that first year, she knew other families needed help as well. “A lot of kids weren’t going to have a very good Christmas, so I wanted them to be able to have a Christmas they liked and have toys to play with.”

Suarez says she couldn’t do it without the help of her volunteers, like Karl and Sheila Ballestad, who say the Toys for Tots program in the county wouldn’t be there if it wasn’t for her. “Hundreds of kids now all because of her, and I’m sure that wouldn’t happen if Stacy wasn’t our president,” Karl Ballestad said.

She says she couldn’t do it without the generous community members who put toys, clothes, blankets and more in the Toys for Tots boxes.

Her reaction when she was told that someone had named her Remarkable Woman? “Honestly, I started crying, it surprised me because I don’t think I’m doing anything to be, you know, nominated for this.” Now she no longer needs toys for herself, but this busy mother of four who works two part-time jobs says she plans to continue with the program, which has grown to help 83 families and more than 300 children.

You can learn more about Toys for Tots Oconto County through their Facebook page. The program accepts donations year-round.