The Marine Corps Toys for Tots drive has kicked off with collection boxes at many area locations.
The Marines and volunteers then match the donated items to the wish lists of area children whose families are having a hard time economically. This year the Marines have requests for toys from 310 families thus far, including children from infancy up to 12 years old. The number of requests is up dramatically from last year, according to Robert Pringle, a retired area Marine who heads the local program.
“Last year we got a major one-time grant from a national toy store chain to augment our regular donations, and that enabled us to buy about 110 bicycles and protective head gear for local children, in addition to books, toys and sports equipment. This year those funds are not available,” Pringle said. “So far about 300 requests for bicycles have been received this year. Sadly, they will not be able to fill most bicycle requests. Other toys have been donated and will be distributed.”
The Marines are asking that donations of new toys, not gift wrapped, be dropped in collection boxes, which will be taken in on Dec. 20. Financial donations are also welcome, since the Marines can use the funds to purchase gifts in categories where they are most needed.
“We are spending donated funds in locally owned stores as much as possible. That way the community’s money stays in the community, while helping local children,” Pringle explained. Large businesses are also supporters, he added.
Checks, made out to “The Toys for Tots Foundation,” can be dropped off at the Shenandoah Attic on Main Street in downtown Lexington, or checks can be mailed to P.O. Box 222, Lexington VA 24450. Those who want to specifically donate to buying bicycles may write “bicycle” on the memo line of their checks and the Marines will use the funds accordingly.
“There is a lot of need out there, and our effort is aimed at making sure those children know their community cares about them,” Pringle said.