Make a Difference: How to help Toys for Tots brighten up a child’s Christmas

What You Need to Know: Toys for Tots
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What You Need to Know: Toys for Tots

Donations of new toys, books and games are being accepted now

The mission of the U. S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Program is to collect new, unwrapped toys during October, November and December each year and distribute those toys as Christmas gifts to children in need in the communities where the campaign is conducted.

The program collects and distributes an average of 18 million toys to 7 million children each year during the holiday season. Since 1947, more than 265 million children have been assisted.

Organizers say the primary goal of the program is to deliver, through a new toy at Christmas, a message of hope to these youngsters to help them become responsible, productive, patriotic citizens. U.S. Marines and volunteers are conducting 810 local toy collection and distribution campaigns in all 50 states, as well as Puerto Rico, Guam and U.S. Virgin Islands.

The program is made possible through the efforts of the Marines and 35,000-plus volunteers, millions of local supporters and hundreds of corporate partners. The Marines collaborate with local businesses and individuals within their communities.

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“Most of us have wonderful memories from our childhood of waking up on Christmas morning and dashing to the tree to find an array of gifts we didn’t think we could live without,” says Jay Schmitt, president of Jeff Schmitt Auto Group, which has been involved with the toy drive nearly 20 years. “The whole month of December — from getting toy catalogs in the mail, sending off a letter to Santa, to that morning surprise — is a key part of our early lives that is easy to take for granted. The reality is there are many children whose experience is far different, and they deserve better.”

Schmitt’s company has been involved with the project since 2001 when they were approached by a Toys for Tots representative and immediately embraced their mission. Collection sites are located at all of their locations, as well as dozens of businesses throughout the area.

Jeff Schmitt Auto Group has been collecting for Toys for Tots since 2001. Jay Schmitt stands next to a collection box. CONTRIBUTED
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Jeff Schmitt Auto Group has been collecting for Toys for Tots since 2001. Jay Schmitt stands next to a collection box. CONTRIBUTED

How this year was different

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the Marines didn’t wait until this Christmas drive to be of help this year, explains Ted “Migs” Silvester, the retired Marine colonel who serves as vice president of marketing and development for the Toys For Tots Foundation. “In an effort to provide immediate relief and assistance, Toys for Tots partnered with Good360, who helped distribute two million toys, games, books to families in need in the spring and early summer.”

Outside of the holidays, Silvester says, Toys for Tots does not have its distribution network available. “What we did have was a large inventory of new toys, games and books donated to us by our generous partners,” he says. “Normally, this inventory would be distributed to children in need during the upcoming holiday season, but given the current crisis, we decided to distribute these toys with the help of Good360 to communities throughout the U.S. to families with children in need during the pandemic.”

Silvester says the toys, books, and games offer many benefits during this extraordinary time of need. "They help to fight boredom, relieve anxiety in children, facilitate a return to normalcy, and can even contribute to the educational development of our nation’s children, especially while they are out of school. "

To compound an already two million toy deficit, they anticipate local toy collections will be negatively impacted during the holiday season due to the pandemic. “We also anticipate a significant increase in families with children seeking assistance from Toys for Tots.”

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How you can help

Toys, games, plush toys and books are needed for all age groups including teenagers. They should be unwrapped and must be new.

They can be dropped off at a number of locations through Dec. 9. Hours for drop off will vary with the locations.

Find more about the local campaign and drop-off points by visiting www.toysfortots.org.

MAKE A DIFFERENCE

Meredith Moss writes about Dayton-area nonprofit organizations in our area and their specific needs. If your group has a wish list it would like to share with our readers, contact Meredith: MMoss@coxohio.com

Please include a daytime phone number and a photo that reflects your group’s mission.