History of the Steinford Toy Foundation

The year is 1932 and the nation is in the grips of the Great Depression. This depression had devastating effects on the country. The stock market was in shambles. Many banks couldn't continue to operate. Farmers fell into bankruptcy. More than 13 million people, a quarter of the workforce, were unemployed, and this was only the beginning. Many people bartered and traded for food, clothes, shelter and services. Sharing and "making do" became a way of life.

It was at this time that a Northern Kentucky couple recognized that, with all of the economic hardship families were facing, many children in their neighborhood would not experience the joy of Christmas. Rose and George Steinford, who had no children of their own, began to purchase and repair used toys, assuming the roles of Mr. & Mrs. Santa Claus for the neighborhood children. This initiated a life-long work for Rose and George, who in the spirit of sharing founded a tradition unique to Northern Kentucky.

The Great Depression ended but still many families, less fortunate than themselves, did not have the where-with-all to make Christmas for their children. They continued their loving effort and during the next 42 years, the Steinfords’ home and garage grew to resemble our childhood remembrance of Santa's workshop. They quietly developed a network, securing the names of needy children, and anonymously delivering their toys to families during the Christmas season.

Throughout the year as toys were repaired and refurbished, Rose and George developed their list and packed the gifts for needy families while the elves, their friends and others whom they had helped in the past, pitched in to handle the distribution of the toys.

In the early 1970s tragedy struck. Rose was diagnosed with cancer and had to undergo surgery to attempt to eradicate the disease. She and George continued their effort that year and toys were still delivered by the elves. Rose passed away three days before Christmas in 1973 and it appeared that a tradition, and much needed service, were passing with her. George's health was failing and before she died, Rose asked that he not continue the effort in order to gain back his health.

George had given his word to Rose that he would not continue the project the following year but fate determined otherwise. At that time, several Covington-Kenton County Jaycees, who had been involved in previous Christmas projects, convinced George to continue to organize the effort for at least one more year. George agreed to help develop the lists and permitted the Jaycees to use his workshop and other resources, but did not feel that the effort could be continued beyond that year. However, the success of the project that year, and the growing support of his friends, convinced George that the effort could survive. George formed the "Rose & George Steinford Toy Association, Inc." (The Foundation) to perpetuate the effort and the Steinfords' belief, "that the Christmas spirit will fill a child's heart in time of need." George proudly watched as The Foundation continued his and Rose’s labor of love over the next five years. George died in July of 1980 with the knowledge that The Foundation would live on after he was gone.

Our all-volunteer foundation continues the Steinford tradition and service through the generosity of the Northern Kentucky community. We believe, as George and Rose did, that “if your generosity touches one child whose generosity later touches another then it’s all worthwhile.” An annual golf outing in Summer and the Toy Event charity ball at the beginning of the holiday season continue to be our major fundraisers. Toy drives that collect toys and gifts from the employees and customers of local businesses do a tremendous amount to supplement the wholesale toys we are able to buy with our budget. The rest of our funds are received from individual contributors in the Greater Cincinnati area.

During the Christmas season of 2020, we provided Christmas presents for more than 3500 needy children in Northern Kentucky. We are a non-profit organization and all contributions are tax deductible.

George Steinford with unidentified toy recipient.

Community elves rehabbing toys in Rose & George Steinford's backyard workshop.

George Steinford with unidentified toy recipient.