News

Volunteers all geared up for Saturday toy drive

By PAUL BALCERAK

Staff writer

The Kitsap Fairgrounds Pavilion was quiet Monday afternoon as a few volunteers picked and wrapped Christmas presents from boxes, but everyone on hand was anticipating a huge rush for Saturday’s Toys for Tots event.

“It’s why I do it,” coordinator Sam Martin said of the happy crowds that file in. “It’s frustrating to put together, but I don’t care.”

Martin and several of his friends and family of the Olympic Peninsula Detachment of the Marine Corps League have been spending the week wrapping gifts in preparation for Saturday’s event. They’re also receiving new toys everyday up till the day of the event.

It’s a lot of hard work, Martin said, but most volunteers are willing and eager to participate.

“We just got lucky today; we get to do something funner than usual,” said Charlotte Recknagle, a teacher at Klahowya Secondary School. Recknagle brings a group of students to the Pavilion to do odd work jobs a few days each week. “We’ve never gotten to do this before. Seriously, this is really fun.”

Local Marines have been manning Toys for Tots donation stations since October at various locations around the area and will continue to collect items through Dec. 22. Any donations received after Dec. 15 (the day of the event) will be put toward next year’s toy drive.

Martin and several of his friends and family have been running Silverdale’s Toys for Tots program since it started in 1980. They’ve had a lot of help over the years and while the program has had its share of ups and downs — donations have dropped off a little in recent years — they keep coming back.

“It’s a way to help the community,” said Martin’s wife, Janice.

Still, they’re always on the lookout for new volunteers.

“We need Marine Corps people to come join ... and new Marines, too,” Janice said.

The national Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots program started in 1947 and was an attempt to provide toys for underprivileged kids. The program provides toys for 5.8 million kids each year on average and has given away more than 370 billion toys to date.

Toy donations go straight to local donation stations while monetary funds are sent to Toys for Tots national offices in Washington, D.C. and reapportioned out to local chapters. The money is then used to purchase additional toys for age groups that didn’t receive many donations.

Currently, Sam is hoping that donations will pick up for the few age groups that are lagging slightly — newborn to six months old, three to four years old and teenagers. He’ll be in Centralia later this week to try and make up the difference for the age groups that come up a bit short.

From there, it’ll be a mad rush to get everything wrapped by Saturday and start working toward next year’s drive.

“I probably never will quit,” Sam said.

What: Toys for Tots charity giveaway

When: Saturday, Dec. 15 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Where: Kitsap Fairgrounds Pavilion; 1200 NW Fairgrounds Road, Bremerton

Note: Children must be present to pick up toys. Parents must bring either a disproportionate share hospital coupon, food stamps or a Women, Infants and Children Nutrition Program ID and photo ID.

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