Auburn Hills, Mich. — Almost immediately, kids at the American Legion Post 143 in Auburn Hills, Mich., were on their hands and knees, rolling the plastic toy car back and forth.
A similar scene has certainly played out countless times over the last 18 years in metro Detroit, but the folks at the Detroit chapter of the Society of Plastics Engineers had never seen it first hand. Until now.
“It's exciting to see the end result,” said Dawn Cooper. Cooper works inside sales and product development for Uniplas Inc., but has also helped organize SPE's annual toy donation for several years.
The annual toy donation hit a milestone this year: The group is handing out its 1 millionth toy. That's an average of about 55,000 toy cars a year.
The toys are molded, assembled and packaged by American Plastic Toys, Maple Press donates decals, E.L. Hollingsworth donates the transportation involved in the donation and Chevron Phillips Chemical Co. donates the resin.
The whole thing is a massive undertaking.
“It starts around July. You start calling in favors and soliciting,” Cooper said. “For the most part, everyone is willing to jump on board and help out.”
Colleen Richter, an account manager for Chevron Phillips, said it was a no-brainer for them to donate 12,000 pounds of polyethylene needed to make this year's batch of cars.
“That's a lot of toys for not a lot of resin. They do a really great job,” she said.
Cooper said they start getting solicitations from local charities as early as March for the following Christmas season.
The donation has evolved over the years, first with just the Toys for Tots program. But SPE has since added the United Way, the Lions Club of Washington Township, the Sergeant Santa program with the Detroit Police Department and the Salvation Army. They also fill requests for smaller programs, like the one at the American Legion Post 143 in Auburn Hills. There, children and grandchildren of veterans, were given several toys and had breakfast with Santa.
“It's really nice to be able to give back,” said Wayne Hertlein, senior program manager of Wilbert Plastic Services and president of the Detroit chapter of SPE.
As part of the 1 millionth car celebration, SPE gave one lucky child at the American Legion event a $100 gift card to Toys R Us.