Tots get toys, students get experience

Allison Wordes—Staff Writer

Toys are not necessities, or something people need. says sophomore Aunna Weinert.

Even so, she feels Toys for Tots, a United States Marine Corps Reserve program which provides children with Christmas gifts, is a worthwhile organization to support. The group brings joy to kids during the Christmas season when finances can be tight for families. Country-wide organizations like Toys for Tots help Dordt students take in experiences and learn necessary skills in their fields.

Drop-boxes for Toys for Tots are located in Toys-R-Us and other toy stores around the country. Because the organization cannot determine the value of toys, they need a they need a third party to go to all their locations outside of their headquarters in Triangle, Va., and price them. Communications prof Tom Prinsen is one of those who work as an independent contractor for Toys for Tots. and his team goes around to a sampling of these places.

 

“It’s a worthwhile organization to work for,” Prinsen said.

He and Jim Lesko, who also works with Toys for Tots, have a contract to price toys, although they are not actually part of the organization. This is his tenth year working with Toys for Tots.

In order to get students involved in real, practical experience, Prinsen encouraged his marketing research class last semester to help with Toys for Tots. For a salary, students majoring in business, public relations or marketing research from many colleges go to all areas of the country to price toys at Toys for Tots locations. This provides valuable experience for students who will need the skills of marketing later on in their careers. It also gives them something practical to put on a resume.

 

“It really provides a story to tell,” Prinsen said.

Students always return with lasting memories and good learning experiences. Last year, there were three students; this year there are two. Next year Prinsen hopes that five students will join.

Prinsen’s other contacts around the country are still involved in the Toys for Tots process. Instead of flying out or driving to far off locations, they work right where they are, often visiting 10-12 stores a day around Thanksgiving break.

After talking to a store manager, they acquire a scanner and proceed to go through all the toys in the bins. For each toy, they take down the important information, including a description of the toy, a picture of it for record, manufacturer and the average price of the toy.

“It’s not a fancy job, but it’s practical,” Prinsen said.

Senior Greg Plooy, a Business Administration and HR Management Major, noted there were a lot of Star Wars themed toys

“I was a little surprised at the high value of the toys people were donating,” Weinert said. Most toys were brand-new, because, for this particular cause, the majority of people buy and immediately donate a toy by putting it in the collection bin. “I think it’s more than just if people would give money – toys the kids can hold in their hands,” Weinert said.

Monetary donations are harder to follow once they have been donated, whereas with toys you know the recipient will be a grateful child.

Weinert took the opportunity to work for the project last fall when in Prinsen’s class. Her job does not include distribution, but involves counting and calculating the value of toys.

Since Weinert traveled to be with her family in Washington state over Thanksgiving break, it worked well for her to go to the lovations near the coast at that time. She visited 5-6 locations near the coast in the Portland, Ore., and the surrounding area.

All of the data goes back to Prinsen and the auditors. He collects the data and arranges it into a spreadsheet, making sure everything is in order. Then he works with Lesko, who changes the information into statistics

Weinert said she hopes to work for Toys for Tots again next year.

“Dordt does a good job of bringing in people who present good experience opportunities,” Weinert said.

She sees a lot of internship offers in her business classes, and this experience working for Toys for Tots has given her the experience she was looking for.

 

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