The Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots is poised to meet an increasing area need this Christmas. The program is holding fundraising events, local donations and toy drives after the closure of its corporate sponsor, Toys R Us.
Toys for Tots Coordinator Aron Lee said the direction of this year’s efforts were established at the first Toys for Tots campaign meeting Friday, Oct. 5. This year’s goal is to reach 1,500 children in families throughout Lewis, Marion, Monroe, Pike, Ralls and Shelby counties after reaching 1,331 children in 2017. Coin canisters and toy boxes will soon be placed in businesses throughout the region so members of the public can help get toys to families in need.
Lee received a final $2,000 donation from Toys R Us during the Toys for Tots National Conference in Washington, D.C., and he said he discussed potential fundraiser ideas with representatives from other regions. There is a possibility that Toys R Us could re-emerge as a corporate sponsor in the future, but program volunteers and officials are seeking local donations as word continues to spread about the local impact of Toys for Tots.
"It's nice that's getting out, and we're seeing the numbers grow," he said.
Due to the closure of Toys R Us, local support is more critical than in years past. Lee said that events like the Hannibal Jaycees' Rock For Tots fundraiser will be extremely important. A volunteer is needed to serve as warehouse manager, and Lee said toy drives will soon help fill the warehouse along with the toy boxes and coin canisters.
As the need increases each year, Toys for Tots volunteers continue to receive "great civic support" from individual donors, area businesses and organizations like NECAC, the Salvation Army and Douglass Community Services.
In November, a team of young adults from the AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps will help load, unload and package boxes for the distribution events. Tentative distribution dates have been set for Monday, Dec. 17 in Lewis and Shelby counties. Setup for Hannibal distribution is scheduled for Tuesday, Dec. 18, with distribution set for Wednesday at the Admiral Coontz Recreation Center. Setup will take place Thursday in Pike County and distribution will be Friday at the Pike County Fairgrounds.
Applications for Toys for Tots services will be accepted beginning Monday, Oct. 15. To volunteer or receive more information, call Lee at (573) 221-0154 or Stacey Nicholas at (573) 221-3892.