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RACINE – Christmas Day is still months away, but you wouldn’t know it from the flurry of activity at the Tex Reynolds’ Toys for Tots workshop every Wednesday morning during the summer.

Repairing a battery-powered toy truck. – Credit: Paul Holley

In room after room in the basement of City Hall Annex, 800 Center St., some two-dozen volunteers are busily sorting, scrubbing, fixing and painting an enormous array of donated, used toys. Those items – bikes, dolls, games, stuffed animals, puzzles, etc. – will be distributed later this year to caregivers who are not able to afford Christmas gifts for their children.

A home-grown charitable organization, Tex Reynolds’ Toys for Tots dates back to the days of the Great Depression when a Boy Scout troop launched a food and gift-giving program and a group of civic-minded residents, including Reynolds (a long-time Journal Times columnist), decided to help out by providing food baskets and toys to needy families at Christmas.

Credit: Paul Holley

Before long, the two initiatives came together with the Scouts collecting used toys and the Good Fellers organization providing the funding. An annual Racine area tradition was born. The program was renamed in honor of Reynolds after his death in 1972. The workshop has been at its present site since 1974. (There is no connection between Tex Reynolds’ Toys for Tots and the national Toys for Tots program of the US Marine Corps.)

The COVID-19 pandemic forced the organization to go on hiatus in 2020, but the workshop reopened last year. Gifts were distributed to about 350 local families – including 900 children – in 2021.

How you can help the Tex Reynolds Toys for Tots program

Tex Reynolds’ Toys for Tots accepts donations of used toys throughout the year. Items may be brought to any fire station east of Interstate 94 (Racine Fire Department in Racine or South Shore Fire Department in Mount Pleasant, Sturtevant, Caledonia) or dropped off at the bright red shed in the parking lot at Kortendick Hardware, 3806 Douglas Ave., Caledonia.

Workshop volunteers are also welcome. Hours are 8 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Wednesdays through August. The workshop operations expand to 8 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays starting in September. Volunteers may also work from home. Call 262-633-1379 or email:

Financial contributions may be sent to:

Tex Reynolds’ Toys for Tots
800 Center St.
Racine, WI 53403

For more information, visit:

A photo sampling of real-life “Christmas elves”

Here’s a look at what’s going on all summer at the Tex Reynolds’ Toys for Tots workshop:

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Paul Holley is retired from careers in journalism, public relations and marketing but not from life. These days, he pretty much writes about what he feels like writing. You may contact him directly at:...