Owning a toy store is not something Scott Friedland ever envisioned — in fact, it was his father who pushed him to do so. Now, the Indiana Army National Guard captain is using his business to do good for others.
Friedland, 32, owner of Timeless Toys in Chicago, summer spearheaded a massive toy drive for Afghan evacuee children. That was followed by a toy drive for victims of the Dec. 10 tornado that devastated Western Kentucky.
He also uses his business to benefit a local food pantry, fundraise for local schools and donate to underprivileged children during the holidays.
“I’ve always been into giving back to the community that you’re a part of,” said Friedland, who was named 2022 Military Hero by the American Red Cross of Illinois for his goodwill efforts. “Helping each other out is what makes the world go round, in my opinion.”
A native of Buffalo Grove, Illinois, Friedland has served for 11 years as a guardsman in Indiana. He’s currently with the 1st Battalion, 163rd Field Artillery Regiment, out of Evansville, Indiana, about 300 miles from his home in Chicago.
Friedland joined ROTC as a student at Indiana University, where he received a degree in sports marketing and management. He chose the National Guard because it offered an enlistment bonus, and said he stuck with Indiana because it’s given him many opportunities to advance his career.
“I’m a huge believer of things happening for a reason, and I have been very blessed for the way things in my life have worked out,” he said.
Lt. Colonel Chuck Wimp, his former battalion commander, said Friedland is driven and has a big heart.
For example, Wimp said, he gave Friedland the position of battalion intelligence officer because of Friedland’s firm grasp of the mechanics of the battalion, despite the fact that Friedland wasn’t fully qualified yet. Friedland then became qualified in less than a year, Wimp said.
Finding Timeless Toys
Friedland, who will deploy overseas sometime this year, said he wanted to serve in the military since he was a little boy.
After graduating college, he worked at his father’s accounting firm, whose clients included a couple who owned the toy store.
When the couple started looking into retirement planning, Friedland’s father piped up.
“He saw that accounting was not what I was interested in doing all my life,” Friedland said. “I think he saw in me that small business ownership was definitely a great fit for me — and toys just fits my personality so well.”
Friedland and his father purchased the business in 2016, with Friedland in charge of the day-to-day operations and accounting.
Located a historically German neighborhood in Chicago, Timeless Toys is designed after a classic German toy shop: lots of wooden fixtures, few electronics and “trendy” toys, and a focus on puzzles, board games and a plethora of fun but educational games.
“We focus so much on the developmental, educational side of toys,” Friedland said. “We’re timeless in the fact that we don’t follow the trends.”
For example, when customers ask about popular toys, staff members — whose background is in education and early childhood development — ask questions about the child who will be getting the toy, in order to make tailored suggestions.
“We want to get the right toy in your kid’s hands,” Friedland said. “It usually ends up being more fun for the kid. They end up playing with it a lot longer the one week of whatever the hype is that week.”
Developing toy drives
The toy drives came from the desire to contribute to children going through rough times, he said.
The first drive in 2021 consisted of $30,000 in toys for Afghan evacuee children. Half the amount was contributed by the store. The other half came from customer donations. When used toys came in, Friedland substituted them with new toys, and donated the used ones to a local nonprofit.
“It was truly about the donation process, not getting people to shop with us,” Friedland said.
The nonprofit Team Rubicon helped transport some of the donated toys to Camp Atterbury in Indiana, which housed Afghan evacuee families, said Mike Watkins, director of operations for Team Rubicon’s north branch.
Of the more than 450 drives that Team Rubicon collected donations from for Afghan families, Friedland’s was the only one – other than Toys for Tots– that focused exclusively on toys, Watkins said.
“For an individual doing a drive like that, it was a sizeable donation,” he said. “There was an overwhelming amount of children that came in on bases from late August until late December. As a dad myself, having things to provide your kids to do is super important.”
Once the drive for the Afghan children wrapped up, the toys kept coming in, so Friendland transitioned to a Western Kentucky toy drive.
Unsurprisingly, Friedland — whose desk sports a Lite Brite toy — loved toys as a kid.
He recalled exhilarating trips to Toys “R” Us. He lugged his beloved Hot Wheel Cars in a special briefcase he called his “car purse,” much to his sisters’ amusement. He also loved playing outside and biking with his friends, he added.
Contributing to those in need is embedded in his family’s fabric, Friedland said. As a boy, he helped his mother serve food at a homeless shelter, and watched his grandparents volunteer at local hospitals, he said.
“For me, that’s one of the big links between my civilian job and my military career,” he said. “My military career is a volunteer service, and it’s an attempt for to give back to something that’s given me so much. To give back to the country.”Read comments