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Great Toy Exchange has something for everyone

KAPA‘A — It’s free! It’s simple, and it’s open!

Coordinated by the Kapa‘a Community Food Pantry inside The Kaua‘i Store, the 2nd Annual Great Toy Exchange is open seven days a week, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. through Christmas Eve.

“This is the second year we’re doing this, so it’s now ‘Annual,’” said Erik Burton, the Kaua‘i Store owner who doubles as the greeter for The Toy Exchange. “We did it last year when we just piled all the toys onto a stand. It drove the gamers wild and they were doing all these poses for selfies with the pile of toys.”

This year, the toys are arranged in the cubby holes that formerly housed goods from the Kapa‘a Community Food Pantry that was started by Emilia Knudsen when she was a student at Kanuikapono Public Charter School.

Emilia’s participation and involvement continues with the Toy Exchange, the familiar food pantry goods being replaced with toys, and items for sale from young keiki entrepreneurs such as the line of jewelry from Emilia, now a student at the Hawai‘i Tech Academy, and other gift items created by keiki from everyday items like discarded hala corms and seashells.

“He (the creator of the seashell people) is only 14 years old,” Burton said. “He used to come in with his mother who patronized the Kaua‘i Store and the Pantry. Now, he’s an entrepreneur showing off his creativity.”

Burton said there is no registration to participate in the Toy Exchange. It is totally free, and anyone is welcome to drop off “gently-used” toys to share.

“And, if you want to bring new toys, that’s okay, too,” Burton said. “Just drop by when the shop is open. Kids needing a toy to enjoy the holidays, kids who are on vacation with their parents are welcome to stop by, get a toy, or toys, use them and drop them off on the way to the airport. Or, they can take it home with them.”

Parents whose children have outgrown toys at home are welcome to drop off material — there is a great demand for puzzles — that still have life in them for other children to enjoy.

“Puzzles are great,” Burton said. “Once the claimant is done with them, they can bring it back and share it forward. We’ve already gone through at least six push riders. And someone’s Lego collection just found a new home.”

Burton, who said the model for the Toy Exchange comes from exchanges being done on the mainland, said there are ways for people without little ones to help, too.

“You know the visitors like to spend money on worthwhile causes,” Burton said. “We have a little present for them — an EmiliaK Aloha Santa Hat that has the outline of Kaua‘i on it with ‘Aloha.’ They can’t leave without anything.”

People are able to support the exchange by contributing to EmiliaK Venmo. Proceeds from the monetary contributions will be used by Emilia when she shops for items to fill the claimed finds as part of her The Kindness Project foundation.

“We just want to ensure that everybody has something for Christmas,” said Kamala, Emilia’s mother.
Source: The Garden Island

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