History of TGR

From our "milk crate" beginnings in 1992, Toys Go 'Round has come a long way.  A group of committed child care providers began this local non-profit with a single idea that has kept growing and growing!  And we have an original founding member on our staff.  Kathy Barloon has helped raise TGR for 23 years now!

Check out our "Toys" page to view a small sampling of the toy inventory.  Better yet, come by the library and see us in action! 
And keep watching, because we like to keep our toys fresh and fun, along with all the classics we keep in our toy library. 


Words from one of the original founding members... Kathy Barloon:       

Toys Go ‘Round first opened its doors in April of 1992 during the Week of the Young Child.  The toy library idea was a brain child of several child care providers who wished to provide a variety of toys for the young children in their care.  This group had a vision that reached beyond their own doors and into the Winneshiek County community.  They felt it was important that all children have the opportunity to learn through playing with a variety of different toys.  Therefore, the planning committee and first board members were not only child care providers but also members of the community. 

If the first board had known that their toy library which started with less than 50 toys on board and milk crate shelves would someday amount to over 1,500 toys, they might have given up before they started.  The dynamic group which brought much enthusiasm and individual talents to the table began to look for a spot to house the toy library – many locations were checked out but the one that made the most sense and sparked the most interest was the offer from the Decorah Public Library to allow Toys Go ‘Round to use space in what they then called “The Dungeon” which once housed the Winneshiek County Extension Office.  The board members thought this would be an excellent way to bring children to the library and explore the wonderful world of books and reading. 

The first fundraising event happened on a sad note as one of the child care providers who shared the dream of creating a toy library, lost her battle with cancer.  Thus the first funds raised were through a spaghetti supper in honor and memory of Karen Bolson.  Her family donated towards the beginning of the toy library and people brought toys in Karen's honor and memory.  The initial spaghetti supper began a long and continuous string of events to fund the unique toy library. 

During the past 23 years, many people have served as board members for the toy library.  They all have had one thing in common – the love of children and the belief that those children learn through their play.  Board members through the years have upheld the strong belief that Toys Go ‘Round would be a top notch toy library with toys kept clean and in good repair.  They established the first check-out and inventory system making sure that each small piece was marked and numbered to easily identify it as a piece from the toy library. 

The toy library has been blessed with many donations of toys ranging from the first merchants who were brave enough to donate toys before the doors even opened to Camcar, a local factory who donated several wrapped toys at Christmas time so that the donation that was earmarked for a local charity would become a part of a library of toys that would benefit many more children.  Through the years, many toy companies have donated toys but the one that really got the “ball rolling” for Toys Go ‘Round was Hasbro toys who promised the board that if they would get their 501(c)3 tax status they would send more than double that value in toys as a donation.  One of the board members took it upon herself to complete the lengthy application with the non-profit status being awarded in January of 1994.  Hasbro Toys kept their word and sent boxes and boxes of toys and games!

Thus, through the work of many from humble beginnings began a toy library that has served hundreds of children, child care providers, parents and grandparents.  The toy library is proud of being an Iowa Community Betterment Award project and winners of the Iowa Governor’s Volunteer Award. 

A big thanks goes out to the Decorah Public Library who has housed the toy library during the past 23 years (except for a short remodeling project when the toy library was re-located to the old Winneshiek County Sherriff’s office).  TGR would also like to thank the many people who have contributed toys and cash to the toy library as well as the Winneshiek County United Way who provides funding to cover operational expenses of the toy library.  Most importantly they want to thank the founding board members who had a vision and the board members who followed in their footsteps to carry on the vision for the next generation of children.  Thanks to the hands of many – Winneshiek County and Northeast Iowa has a toy library that they can be very proud of!