History and Alumni Memories
History of the Toy Loan Program
History: In the summer of 1934, during the Great Depression, the manager of a dime store in southwest Los Angeles noticed two young boys wandering around his store, and discovered they were pocketing small toys and materials that could be used to construct toys. The boys were apprehended and referred to the Probation Department. Probation staff then spoke to the principal of the school they attended and found that the boys had good records, but their families could not afford many toys. Together, the store manager, school principal, and Probation staff decided something must be done to prevent them from becoming delinquents, and the idea of gathering toys and loaning them to children was conceived.
First Center: The first Toy Loan Center opened May 6, 1935 in a garage near Manchester Park. The basic ground rules were developed. Toys would be loaned on a weekly basis, and a record would be kept of every toy borrowed. The children would be graded on the care of their borrowed toy, receiving a satisfactory mark for returning their toy on time and in good condition. After 20 good marks, s/he would attain the status of Honor Borrower, which entitled the child to a gift from the Honor Cabinet. In addition, the Toy Loan Honor Code was established to teach honesty, responsibility, courtesy, and integrity.
Today: Seventy-five years after the first Toy Loan Center opened, the program remains virtually unchanged. There are still no membership dues and fines are not imposed for late returns. For a child to borrow toys, all that is required is a membership application card signed by a parent or responsible adult.
Program: Individuals, groups, and a few toy manufacturers donate all the toys used by the program. The centers continue to be run independently by volunteers. They are located in parks or recreation facilities, children’s centers, libraries, housing projects, community service buildings, and one in a homeless shelter. Each center is different from the others, but all adhere to the basic tenets.
Currently, the Toy Loan Program supplies toys to some 45+ centers throughout LA County and is a resource for teachers, educators, school psychologists, and County personnel who borrow toys, books, and games to enhance learning and stimulate communication in therapy. Over 30,000 children are served annually by the various services offered by the program.
Support: While the program depends on monetary and toy donations from the public and private sectors, the County does provide other key supports such as a headquarters facility and a delivery truck. Toys are sorted, cleaned and repaired if necessary, at the headquarters, then distributed to the various centers. At any given time, there are approximately 45,000 toys in circulation and at the headquarters facility.
Almost from the beginning, the Toy Loan Program has been jointly operated with the Toy Loan Advisory Board – a non-profit organization, chartered by the State of California. It is comprised of private citizens who volunteer their time and energy by soliciting donations, operating toy lending centers, and assisting in administering the program. In addition the Board promotes Toy Loan and recommends general policies vital to the success of the program.
TOY LOAN: The Program With A Heart - 213-744-4344
Programa de Toy Loan
TL Fact Sheet (Rev. 08/2005)
I was born and raised in Lincoln Heights until we moved to South El Monte in 1962 where I attended public school, Maxson Elementary. While attending Maxson, I discovered the Toy Loan Program.
It was an exciting time for me as I loved checking out a new toy every week, especially the dolls. I recall accumulating points every time I returned my toy in good condition. In doing so, I was able to save enough points to exchange them for a brand new Shirley Temple doll!
Never in a millions years would I of thought I'd end up working for DPSS; the heart of Toy Loan. Now some 36 years later, I will be saying goodbye to my DPSS family as I retire, but the memory of Toy Loan will remain with me always.
Thanks for the memories! Margie Hernandez
I just read your March-April 2009 Toy Loan Newsletter and it brought back so many memories!
I grew up in East Los Angeles in the early 50's and clearly remember my little sister and I looking around the Toy Loan to check out something to play with for the week. We'd walk around with eyes wide -- so excited to browse all the great toys! In those days, all the toys were handmade, painted wood toys made by GR participants, such as rocking horses, wooden ducks we'd pull with a string, dolls, etc. We didn't look forward to returning what we'd borrowed, but were happy once we saw we could check out another, equally fun toy.
When I really think about it, my memories were not only about the toys, but with the days we'd spend at Toy Loan together with my Mom and Dad -- sometimes we'd go to Lincoln Park afterward and make a day of it. I knew Toy Loan still existed, even after all these years, but until I read your Newsletter, I didn't remember the effect it had on me as a small child.... and the impact I believe it still has on children today. Anyway, I said I'd keep it brief, so thanks again and keep up the great work!! Irene Torres, DPSS Employee
In the 1960’s l lived with my mother and two brothers in the Dana Stand Projects in Wilmington, CA. My mother learned there was a Toy Loan Program in the neighborhood, my two brothers and I quickly became participants. I have fond memories of all the different toys that were available for the children. After all these years (46 to be exact) I learned my mother saved my Toy Loan “Certificate of Adoption of a Doll” dated 1964. It just so happen that I had the document in my car and shared it along with my story.
The Toy Loan Program impacted me in several ways. As a child I was happy to know that “someone cared” and “provided toys for the children”. I remember the staff being very nice to our family and the other families as well. The fact that someone cared and was nice rubbed off on me from my childhood to adulthood. I suppose our humble beginnings help mold us to who we are today. In 2000, I worked with City funded Welfare to Work Programs assisting homeless families. In 2001, I began working with the County funded General Relief Opportunities for Work Program assisting non-custodial parents, working and volunteering my services in the Skid Row Community, Greater Los Angeles & Orange Counties.
This includes the Weingart Center Association (work & volunteer at special events), Midnight Mission (special events), Fred Jordan Mission (special events), LAs Mission (special events), LAs Housing Services Authority (Homeless Count 2009, Coordinator SPA 4), United Way of Greater Los Angeles (HomeWalk 2008 & 2009). Other volunteering included: Friends Outside Los Angeles County (assisted families with incarcerated loved ones), The Dream Center (assisted Hurricane Katrina victims as they arrived from New Orleans), Get-On-The-Bus (assisted a Special Mother’s Day event uniting children with their incarcerated mothers in prison), Giving Back Hope (feeding the homeless & special events), Parents In Crisis (assisted at-risk youth & parents at Central Juvenile Hall), L.A County Probation Camps (guest speaker) Working Wardrobes for a New Start (assisted adults emerge from life crisis situations preparing them for work through special events), La Calle News (guest speaker at conferences for high risk young women on their journey to create change).
I hope this story touches your readers to get involved in community activities and give back. Together we can make a difference! Warm regards, Betty Ariston
The year was '37 or '38. I was in elementary school and our classroom was informed that there was this place in Torrance where you could borrow toys. Coming from a family of 7 children, I couldn't be happier. With my mother's consent, I happily ran to see this world of wonderous toys you could borrow. As I recall, the one room building was located on a street now called Van Ness. It was just about 6 or 8 blocks from my parents home. I can still see the lady behind a small wooden counter and all the toys on shelves. The lady asked "what kind of a toy would you like to borrow?" I told her a doll. She gently handed me a baby doll. She told me how important it was for me to take good care of her. She told me I could name my doll (I forgot the name but I think I named my new doll, Daisy). She told me if I was real careful with my doll and they could see the love and care I was giving my doll for only 9 months, they would give me a "Certificate of Adoption". For 9 months, I regularly brought Daisy to be admired by the wonderful lady that had given her to me.
I was only about 8 or 9 years old but my mother had taught me how to sew. I had made clothing for Daisy from the unused scraps of cloth my mother no longer needed when she made our school clothes. My father owned a feed store and he would get 100# sacks of feed. Sometimes, the feed sacks would come in beautiful print colors and with permission from my father, he would let me take empty feed sacks to make doll blankets and extra things. After 9 long months, the day came when I received my certicate of adoption for "Daisy Lovelady" . It was an occasion that still brings tears to my eyes.
I'm sure I can thank Toy Loan for leading me on the path to doll collecting. My mother, Lena Lovelady, gave me my last doll when I was 13. She thought I was getting too old for dolls. (I still have all the dolls.) I only got dolls from my parents at Christmas time. Over the years, I had noticed that none of my dolls were wrapped in Christmas paper. I asked my mother why she did not gift wrap my dolls? Her reply was "dolls have to breath". I lost part of my heart when my adorable father died at 64 years and a much bigger part of my heart when my mother passed away at 93. My mother used to say our youth is for such a short time and the remaining years are for growing older and old. In our youth and in our home we were taught the "3 R's of growing up, Reverence, Respect and Responsibility. THANK YOU Toy Loan for helping to make a small part of my youth so memorable and enjoyable. Jean Lovelady Wren
Today (10 June 2010) I thought of something I hadn't thought about for quite some time, going to the Toy Loan. From 1954 to 1959 we lived in Bellflower. I still have the doll adoption papers for the dolls I had adopted; Helen (just so happens that was mom's name), Marilyn Monroe, and Cindy Lee. Mom and I would walk over to Toy Loan as it wasn't too far from the trailer park we lived in. The people who volunteered there were grandparent looking people (well, through the eyes of a small child). The Toy Loan was in an old house that had been converted. I remember always looking and looking before making a decision as to which toy to borrow.
I don't remember just when but I think I was 7 or 8 when Toy Loan burned down. All I can remember was I cried and cried and for the longest time would not go near the spot where it had been. Mom didn't realize how much it meant to me. It was almost as if I took it personally. I could just picture all those toys getting destroyed. There was nothing they could salvage. Thankfully because it happened in the evening hours no one was injured. I can remember hearing the word arson but didn't know what it meant at that age, this would have been 1956 or 1957. Nice to see it is still going! Kathy Azevedo
I used to check out toys just about every week. At the time, my mother and I lived with my aunt and her son, my cousin. This was during the war and my uncle was serving in the war. I remember one particular toy I checked out. I wanted to play with a dump truck or fire engine. I checked one out and went home and closed the bedroom door to play with it. Being a girl, I was supposed to check out girlie toys and I didn't want my cousin to see me and tease me about checking out a boy's toy.
I remember another time checking out a printing press that had letters and I think a stamp pad. I had lots of fun making notes and letters with that. I think the toy loan was in Monrovia because I used to walk there. One time I came home and looked through my toys and chose some to donate. My mother wasn't too happy at first but realized that is how I was, I liked helping others. Jere Duncan
It was in 1938 -1940 that I lived in Hollywood. There was a toy loan location on Tamarind Avenue that I frequented. One of my favorite toys that I checked out was a dump truck. My family could not afford to buy toys. I am most pleased to know that this program is still in place and I am sending a check to further this most worthwhile endeavor. I know from experience how the toy loan fulfulls a need. Dan Herscher
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