Marion County Sheriff's Department officials joined with 2018-2019 Toms and Beckys and Douglass Community Services to bring a pursuit vehicle filled with toys for holiday Toys for Tots program

A special type of “sleigh” stuffed with Christmas gifts arrived Friday, Dec. 7 at Douglass Community Services (DCS) for the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots program — thanks to combined efforts between Marion County Sheriff's Department officials and 2018-2019 Toms and Beckys and their families.

Marion County Jimmy Shinn smiled as he talked about the “Sheriff's sleigh full” of toys in the rear seats and rear cargo area of his police vehicle.

Toys for Tots co-coordinator Stacey Nicholas said the program has grown significantly over the past five years — from providing Christmas gifts to 523 children in 2013 to bringing toys to 1,400 children this year in Lewis, Marion, Monroe, Pike, Ralls and Shelby counties.

Nicholas said that early donations were a bit slow, but she thanked all of the individuals and organizations who work together each year to help bring Christmas joy to area youth.

Nicholas said that financial constraints make it difficult for many local parents to provide gifts for their children, and the program's steady growth means that more donations are needed this year.

“The Marine Corps believes that every child deserves Christmas, so we make that happen,” she said.

Sheriff Shinn wore a bright red Christmas hat as he brought boxes full of toys inside with help from Nicholas, fellow employee Deborah Witthouse and volunteers from the AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC). As the piles of toys grew underneath the tree inside DCS, Shinn said the “three-way partnership” was successful between Sheriff's Department officials, Toms and Beckys and DCS representatives.

“We don't want to have any kid in our county wake up Christmas morning and not have any types of gifts from Santa Claus,” he said. “We want people to know that we care for all kids — no matter what their economic or social class is — we care for all the kids in our community, and we want them waking up with a big smile on their face that they got a gift from Santa Claus. That's what it's all about.”

Nicholas said a “Drive for Your Community” event will take place from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 8 at Tom Boland Ford. The event provides $20 for Toys for Tots each time someone drives a vehicle with a Toys for Tots representative. She encouraged bringing financial and toy donations to DCS, 711 Grand Ave. in Hannibal through Friday, Dec. 14. Please make checks payable to Toys for Tots.

trevor.mcdonald@courierpost.com