By Sarrah Peters, News Editor
In a back room of the Catholic Center of Concern, 475 black trash bags full of toys line the walls in bags. Today (Dec.1), 190 families will visit the center in increments of 12 every 15 minutes to pick up toys from Marine Corps League Toys for Tots. A total of 475 will receive toys. Toys for Tots will repeat the same process at least two more times on the following two Fridays.
This year, the local Toys for Tots programs will help provide Christmas presents for over 500 families and about 1,400 children. The program will provide toys for infants and children up to 18 years old.
Volunteers from Toys for Tots work year-round buying presents for the holidays. The volunteers search for the best discounts possible, often working with management to make sure the toys they buy are within the programs price requirement. Toys for Tots is not allowed to spend more than $30 on any toy it buys, in order to make sure resources are used responsibly and to help as many children as possible.
The Toys for Tots program has spent about $20,000 on toys in preparation for this year’s toy distribution. About $8,000 came from the national Toys for Tots program, but the remaining $12,000 came from local donations, all of which goes towards toys.
Several volunteers spent last Thursday night and Friday morning taking advantage of Black Friday deals. They spent almost $4,000 and acquired toys and over 30 bicycles.
In addition to buying toys with donated money, the charity accepts donated toys. In another back room of the Catholic Center of Concern, toys line the walls on shelves set up like a toy store.
Volunteers review the age and gender of the children receiving gifts and pack appropriate toys into black trash bags, along with any specially requested toys the program was able to provide for a child. Toys for Tots even provides batteries for any toys that require them. The toys are not wrapped.
At the moment, at least five volunteers are working seven days a week to make sure the toys are ready for pick-up, and additional volunteers come in to help as needed.
Local Toys for Tots Coordinator Johnny Baker said that he started volunteering with the charity in 1973 but has become more involved since he retired.
“Volunteering is an important element of our society,”said Baker. “It’s what I love doing, helping people. It’s why we all do it.”
For more information about Toys for Tots and its application process, which is currently closed for this year, visit www.toysfortots.org