The second Saturday in December is Jerry Moscowitz’s favorite day of the year. For nearly four decades, he and his family have hosted an all-day Christmas party where neighbors, friends, colleagues, clients, local officials and even the fire department come and drop off toys for children in need.
Moscowitz’s wife makes caramel popcorn and Christmas treats to share. They give out customized buttons to those who donate a toy. A banner is hung each year over the garage. Moscowitz’s kids, who are now in their 30s, have grown up with the annual fete, and many of their friends have participated since they were in grade school.
“The energy and the positivity—it’s hard not to feel it. Everyone’s in a good mood,” says Moscowitz, CRS, GREEN, a real estate agent with RE/MAX Results in Minneapolis.
Once the party is over, Moscowitz and his wife count the toys, and the Marines come and pick them up for donation to Toys for Tots. To date, they’ve collected and donated over 12,000 toys.
The endeavor started when Moscowitz suggested that, rather than their normal gift exchange, he and a small group of friends collect toys to donate. The 10th year they did it, though, Moscowitz decided to change it up. “I was out of real estate at the time, and I invited a few people I worked with and some neighbors over to participate,” he says. That year, they collected 40 toys—and that began the “Moscowitz Party for Toys for Tots,” as the event is known today. “It just kept going, and it kept growing.”
As time went on, the local cable company learned of the party and covered it on the news. Then, the mayor started showing up. Not long after, the fire department—sirens and lights ablaze on their trucks—showed up with $1,000 worth of toys for the party. “We averaged around 500 to 600 toys each year,” Moscowitz says.
But when the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020, Moscowitz had to rethink his efforts. He and his family still wanted to host a toy drive, but they wanted to make sure that people were safe. “We held it in our garage that year,” Moscowitz says. His daughter also helped him set up an Amazon wish list. Several times per week leading up to the party, an Amazon truck made a stop at the Moscowitz house to drop off a donation from the wish list.
Moscowitz says they didn’t know what to expect that year, given the widespread isolation and social distancing. “We just figured that it didn’t matter how many toys we collected. We just wanted to do it.”
As he and his wife transferred the toys from the garage to the house, they were surprised to find that it was their best collection year to date. “We ended up with 1,040 toys that year, and since then, we’ve collected right around 1,000 or so,” he says. “It’s amazing how people have come together on this. We have this 12-by-12 room with a decent-sized Christmas tree where we host things. It used to be that there would be a nice pile of toys around it. Now, toys are piled up to about four feet all over the room.”
Moscowitz says he and his family have no plans to stop the drive; it’s the highlight of their year, as it is for much of the community. So far this year, he’s already received donations from people in four states, in addition to Minnesota. “It’s just one of those things. There was no master plan. We didn’t think to ourselves that we wanted to build something like this. It just kind of happened, and I know that there will come a day in the not-so-distant future when one of my kids will take it over.”