Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012 | 5:18 p.m.
Susan England made a New Year’s resolution to collect toys to donate to the Toys For Tots Foundation.
It started out modest. Using her bargain-hunting and coupon-collecting skills, she hoped to collect 100 name-brand toys for $100 that would be given to needy kids through Toys for Tots. Two months later, she attained her goal and decided, "Why not go bigger?" Now she has collected more than 800 toys for toddlers up to preteens, and she isn’t done yet.
“After the first hundred, it became a mission for me to find them,” England said. “Even Nerf toys, to find those in the 99-cent store, was like a great, wonderful thing for me. I just start snapping them up. I had more fun (collecting toys) than anything.”
England came up with the idea after seeing the impact her friend’s 3-year-old son made in Indiana last Christmas. With the help of his mother, he sold all his toys and purchased new ones to donate to needy children through the charity.
The act motivated England to make it her New Year’s resolution to collect items for Toys for Tots. Although most resolutions focus on self-image and usually are dropped after a month, England became determined to keep hers.
Each weekend, she scoured places such as CVS, Target and 99 Cents Only stores for bargains. She’d have shopping carts full of toys if there was a good deal. She went so often that store clerks knew her by name. She also received help from the U.S. manufacturer of Zhu Zhu Pets. They sent two dozen of the little electronic hamsters to her and her fiance, Adam Rogers, for free after Rogers told them what they were trying to accomplish.
At home, every nook, shelf and closet was stuffed with Nerf balls, Baby Einstein stuffed animals, Zhu Zhu Pets, Hot Wheels and dozens of other toys. The sheer volume of the toys became a little overwhelming for Rogers, but he is thrilled for what English has accomplished.
“She watches 'Hoarders,'” Rogers said. “So long as it doesn’t get like that, we’re fine.”
England estimated that she has spent $500 or $600 during the year on the toys, but her bargain-hunting skills have allowed her to get the most for her money. She said the retail price for the Zhu Zhu Pets would have put the cost as high as $2,000.
“The cheaper you can get (a toy), then the more kids that can benefit,” England said.
Soon the toys will fill the eight cardboard boxes stacked to their ceiling. She has arranged for a Toys for Tots pickup later this month and another in December. She plans to reach 1,000 toys by then.
“You don’t have to give the money all at once,” England said. “I spread it out over the year so it doesn’t seem like that (much). One person can make a difference. Toys for Tots is such a good organization, I can’t wait to see the looks on kids' faces.”
It’s the first New Year’s resolution she has ever kept, but it won’t end this year. On Jan. 1, she plans to set the bar higher and continue to collect toys to donate.
“This is the minimum bar now,” England said. “I have to set it higher. I think it was a learning thing this year. Now next year, I’ll be a pro at it. So let’s see where we can go from there.”