Mrs. Claus’ Toy Workshop: Bringing Holiday Joy Despite Financial Struggles

From left to right, Kim Terry, Sheri McDaniel, Marissa Bartley, LaNell Cochran, Patricia Knippel and Charlene Corral. Sweet Home’s Mrs. Claus and her elves. Photos by Sky Chappell

Oftentimes, the holidays are viewed in two ways. These include the love for the holiday season, or the existential dread of an empty bank account. Either way, the seasons bring joy in the hearts of the children who get to participate. This joy shouldn’t be diminished due to a parent unable to pay for their child’s gifts, for any unforeseen circumstance. That’s when the Mrs. Claus and The Elves Toy Workshop comes in.

Patricia Knippel saw the need for toys on Facebook in December of 2022. Having and raising eight children of her own, Knippel knew herself how truly difficult it was to get gifts at that time of the year.

“I raised eight children of my own, so my heart went out for them,” Knippel said.

According to the National Retail Federation in a 2021 report, the average American spends approximately $997.73 just on gifts during the holiday season. That amount is roughly a week of salary, if a person makes $52,000 a year. Assuming someone does, the average single parent household would be left a week without money for food, rent or any other necessities.

Knippel concluded that there must have been something she can do to help the children and the community. That’s when the idea for the Mrs. Claus and Elves Toy Workshop started. In 2023 she began fixing toys, games, puzzles and more. Her “fixing” involves completely cleaning, fixing and repackaging donated toys to give back to community members.

At the start, it was just Knippel working with whatever donations she was able to receive. The year concluded with four to five more volunteers helping with the fixing process and a total of 353 toys given back to the community.

“This year there is much more community input,” Knippel said.

The local Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints womens’ group plans to help the organization with various things including fixing up dolls.

“Mrs. Claus” and her “elves” during their May 2 meeting.

One thing the organization has struggled with, while waiting for their non-profit status, has been funding. The group does not sell the toys they get donated, which makes it difficult for them to buy various items like cleaning supplies or storage areas. This requires the group to fundraise and be reliant on financial donations.

Currently, Knippel is hoping to get her non-profit status certified.

“It cost(s) well over $600 just for filing,” she said. “We got the paperwork in March, and they said it would take 30 days.”

The group is awaiting their certification whilst looking for more ways they can continue to raise money, which was on the forefront of the discussion during their meeting that took place on May 2.

In order to receive a gift for your child, parents/family must fill out a small application form. Come September the gifts will be distributed. Families can view the Mrs.Claus and The Elves Toy Workshop Facebook page to find what’s in the packages, and choose what gift they would like.

Although the non-profit status is currently pending, the group continues to push forward and find more and more ways they can help out the community. The group has a fundraiser for homemade cinnamon rolls and cheesecake for Mother’s Day. These cinnamon rolls are truly crafted with care and cost $6. Along with the rolls, various cheesecakes are available for purchase, costing $24. Pre-orders are open until 6 p.m. May 8, with pickup available as soon as May 10. To reserve your treat, email [email protected].