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It’s been one of those years, but…

The Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Program is having a very tough year in 2011, and hopefully you can help.

ToysforTotsSanta-smlThe 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 needy children in the community in which the campaign is conducted. The primary goal of Toys for Tots is to deliver, through a new toy at Christmas, a message of hope to less fortunate youngsters that will assist them in becoming responsible, productive, patriotic citizens.

Call it the economy or whatever, donations have been way down this year. The Toys for Tots program in Napa County, California, is having its worst year for gift donations, according to charity coordinator Robert Stevenson. In Philadelphia, donations to the city’s Toys for Tots campaign are down nearly 80 percent, and organizers say they fear thousands of needy children will go without presents on Christmas. Last year, the operation delivered 113,000 toys, but this year it has collected 25,000. With one week to go in Atlanta, their Toys for Tots annual campaign is falling way behind in its goal to collect new toys for needy kids.

The news reports are not good all over, and these are just a few of the stories that are showing up this season.

So how can you help?

It doesn’t take very much. The national website is the starting point to find one of the 730 local Toys for Tots campaign sites.  At the top of the Home Page (www.toysfortots.org), there is a section noted Select a Local Campaign Office, and underneath a dropdown menu labeled “Select a State”.  From this menu, you can select the state, then the city/county in which you reside.  If the city/county is covered, clicking on that location will take you to a local Toys for Tots website.  At the local website, you’ll find information about local events, how to become a collection point for the local campaign, how to register for assistance, and how to donate directly to a local campaign.

If you can’t get out and buy a wrapped toy, you can donate money to the Toys for Tots Foundation from the comfort of your home or office. Their secure online donation is a simple one-step process to giving this season. And be aware that the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation enjoys one of the very best program to support ratios within the nonprofit world; 98:2.  This means that over 98% of your donation goes to their mission of providing toys, books and other gifts to less fortunate children.  The 2% spent on support principally covers fundraising expenses - not one donated dollar goes to pay for salaries or any other manpower costs.

For those who want to know more about this wonderful organization, there’s an excellent history detailing how Toys for Tots began in 1947, when Major Bill Hendricks, USCR and a group of Marine Reservists in Los Angeles collected and distributed 5,000 toys to needy children. There’s another excellent Toys for Tots history recently posted on the 'Net by Beth Crumley, with some superb photos than cannot be found elsewhere.  And this Marine can tell you that there were a number of us who put our time and muscle into refurbishing toys (bicycles, wagons, and much more) for needy kids when such things were done in the 'Nam Era… and my son and I were involved in an auction on the Web within the last decade.

Please see what you can do to make this Christmas good for a deserving child.

Merry Christmas… Semper Fi.