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Holiday charity faces $5,000+ rent spike from city of Racine

Posted at 5:19 PM, Dec 17, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-17 19:36:25-05

RACINE — A holiday charity in Racine is facing a massive spike in rent from the city.

Tex Reynolds’ Toys for Tots has rented at the City Hall Annex for the past 45 years paying just $200 a year. The city says it’s time the organization pays their fair share.

Inside the basement of a city building, more than a hundred volunteers work year-round to make Christmas special by building and refurbishing used toys for families who can’t afford to buy their own.

“We have people that are crying up the ramp when they bring that stuff out to their cars,” said Toys for Tots President Pete Waselchuk.

Just one week before Christmas, Waselchuk is already worried about the next after learning the city of Racine wants to raise their annual rent from $200 to $5,466 in 2020.

“It’s a substantial chunk of our operating budget, I can tell you that,” Waselchuk said. “It’s probably about 25-percent of our operating budget.”

Public Works Commissioner John Rooney said the city is cutting the non-profit a deal by only making them pay 50 cents per square foot. Rooney said that doesn’t even cover their utilities bill.

“Until now, they’ve enjoyed this rent free for decades and it’s been an arrangement that quite honestly if it’s not monetized in some way, I don’t think people can quite understand the value of it,” Rooney said.

Toys for Tots uses about 11,000 square feet of the City Hall Annex. Rooney thinks the organization should try to use less space to cut down on their bill.

“It’s a very large space and maybe they don’t need all that space,” Rooney said.

Waselchuk says the problem with that is they use every room they rent to serve as Santa for 1,500 kids.

“It’s not just a matter of stocking shelves with new toys,” he explained. “There has to be areas to repair and clean and it takes a lot of room.”

This issue is going before the Racine City Council for approval Tuesday night. The city has given Toys for Tots a 3 month extension on their current lease to figure out their plans.