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Never too early for Toys For Tots

It was only September when all of a sudden local large retailers, as well as some major thrift stores, began placing Christmas merchandise out for customers to purchase. It wasn’t even Halloween, but there was a Santa Claus photo announcing Dec. 25. Thanksgiving? Veterans Day? No thanks, not yet. Just line up and buy Christmas decorations in September.

But at least one topic can be discussed at an early date — the annual nationwide Toys For Tots drive. The project had a very early and poignant beginning. In 1947, Marine Corps Reserve Maj. Bill Hendricks, at the urging of his wife, started a toy drive at his unit. It was very successful. Word got out, and Marine headquarters directed all Reserve sites to implement similar campaigns.

One small heart-tugging historical segment of the campaign is touted today by the Tots organization, and it is very touching. According to Toys For Tots headquarters in Virginia, years ago a local Santa Claus personality and U.S. Marine Corps member received a letter that read: “Dear Santa, Can we just get something for Christmas? Last year we didn’t get anything and if not for me then just bring something for my little brother and sister. They have been really good. Merry Christmas!” It showed up just prior to Christmas, and was not signed.

Santa happened to be the Tots coordinator, Kevin Mallon, and the mailman said he knew the house where he had picked up the letter, which had no postage stamp attached. On that Christmas Eve the mailman delivered a bag of toys that Mallon had put together. It was left on the letter writer’s doorstep with a note that read, “Love, Santa.”

Over the years the Toys For Tots project has grown. Since 1947, 627 million toys have been distributed, and 281 million children have been supported with toy distribution. Although many Nevada retailers have begun celebrating Christmas earlier and earlier, I have yet to see any Tots collection boxes in Boulder City where brand-new, unwrapped toys, can be deposited.

But not to worry because the organization has developed a virtual option. The Virtual Toy Box is presented by Tremor — a partner of the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation. The foundation has approved use of the Marine Toys for Tots logo and marketing assets for Tremor. The company is providing the site to allow supporters of Tots to purchase toys that will be donated to campaigns across the country for children who need them most. Once on the Toys For Tots site, users can choose a toy from images that are shown, then pay for it and “drop” it into a Tots virtual box.

There are other ways the Marines help underserved children at Christmas. Financial donations can be made online, and individuals can start their own Tots fundraising page to collect donations. While I am not personally enamored of cryptocurrency, Tots has a page where individuals can donate Bitcoin, Ethereum and other forms of this new type of money. Tots also works with PayPal, accepts stocks and bonds and donations of automobiles, and supports an Indigenous peoples program that provides toys and books to participating reservations.

And lest we forget, there is always the old school postal service. One can still send checks through the mail, to Marine Toys For Tots Foundation, National Gift Processing Center, P.O. Box 4002036, Des Moines, Iowa 50340-2036.

Chuck N. Baker is an award-winning journalist and a Vietnam War Purple Heart veteran. He can be heard at 8:30 a.m. each Sunday on KKVV-AM hosting “That’s America to Me” and occasionally on KUNV-FM hosting “America’s Veterans, Today and Tomorrow.”

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