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During the holiday season, a little help can go a long way

Washington state residents and nonprofits come together to help children in need

An inside look at the Toys for Tots inventory on Nov. 21, 2023 at the organization’s operating location in Bellingham, Wash. The toys are organized by age group and the rest of the room holds a plethora of other toys and accessories. // Photo by Logan Schreiber

Looking beyond the curtain of the joyous holiday season can reveal those who are struggling. Donation drives are important in helping out children and families who are often overlooked.

“The holidays can be an intensely difficult time of the year for children in foster care,” said Jason Wettstein, the communications director for the Washington State Department of Children, Youth, and Families, in an email. 

On the governmental level, the state department helps organizations set up donation drives and build a network of support. It also provides resources for foster families and those looking to adopt. Furthermore, the organization offers educational and child development services and rehabilitation for children in juvenile detention. 

Nonprofits are also providing resources to those who need them. While there are many organizations doing good for the world, these two are excited to spread their holiday joy.  


Treehouse was able to help 5,000 youths state-wide in the last fiscal year. Their Holiday Magic program gives gifts to each eligible child on lists given by the state department and Tribal courts. 

“It’s just a really cool time, there’s really great energy around the holidays,” said Katie Adams, the head of content and public relations for Treehouse. 

Still, 5,000 is only about 20% of kids who are eligible to receive their assistance, said Adams. This season and in the coming years, Treehouse is hoping to reach more youths with help from local businesses and citizen donations. 

Founded in Seattle in 1998, Treehouse brings year-round help and opportunities to youth across the state, and for most of the year, the focus is on the educational needs of foster care children. 

“While Treehouse is on the case every day for young people, their work through Holiday Magic brings a bit more normalcy to children and youth during the holidays, and helps make the season brighter,” said Wettstein. 

Treehouse has a storefront with clothes and other items for foster children at 2100 24th Ave. S. in Seattle. For those who can’t travel to the location, Treehouse has an online shop.

Treehouse may only be a Washington state organization, but Adams said they work to help similar organizations across the U.S. grow and provide for the children of their respective states.

Toys for Tots

Started in 1947, the nonprofit Toys for Tots has become one of the leading toy donation services in the country.  

The organization is run by volunteers nationwide.

In Whatcom County, Toys for Tots is led by Wes Weston, who has volunteered for the past eight years. Weston said he and his associates want to do their best to create a better future for kids. 

“We want them to feel special and appreciated, not that they're getting someone's hand-me-down,” Weston said. “It's exciting. It's always fun to problem solve, [leaving the world] better than you found it.”

Ninety-seven percent of donated money goes directly back into the toy inventory, said Weston. For instance, donated skateboards, bikes and scooters all need new safety gear before they are passed on.  

Toys for Tots operates by first organizing the toys they receive. Then, they are contacted by other organizations to help distribute the toys. 

The Whatcom Toys for Tots mission works with school districts within the county, as well as the Nooksack and Lummi Tribes. The school districts and Tribal councils send Toys for Tots a list of children and their needs, to which Toys for Tots then sends out a toy for each name on the list. 

Toys for Tots

A view outside of Toys for Tots’ temporary seasonal location on Meridian Street in Bellingham, Wash. on Nov. 21, 2023. Toys For Tots is always accepting volunteer help or donations on their website. // Photo by Logan Schreiber

Ways to help

Often, donation opportunities happen at places of work. 

This was the case for Karina Rice, who got involved in a food and goods drive for Woodrose Senior Apartments through her job at LKQ Manufacturing in Bellingham. Rice said this drive is important because of the lack of attention given to the residents of Woodrose Senior Apartments.

“I haven’t volunteered prior, but after hearing how desperate they were, I wanted to get as many people involved as possible,” Rice said in an email. “Their government funding has been significantly cut and they are calling on the community to help take care of their seniors and make sure they have food available.”

Treehouse, Toys For Tots and the many other donation services in the county and state are frequently looking for volunteers and donations. Volunteer and donation information is available on the Treehouse and Toys For Tots websites. 

For other volunteer opportunities, The Volunteer Center of Whatcom County has several available programs to choose from.

“We’re in that business,” said Weston. “We want [the children] to feel special and appreciated.”

Logan Schreiber

Logan Schreiber (he/him) is a fourth-year student going into the PR Journalism program. He enjoys writing and music, hoping to do both for his career. You can reach him at

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