History and Alumni Memories

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History and Alumni Memories

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.

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