Toys for Tots collecting through Dec. 16

Black Friday crowds will fill parking lots in the wee hours hoping to snag that major deal.

Why not make space next to that gigantic TV and pick up a new, unwrapped toy to drop into a Toys for Tots box to brighten a child’s Christmas?

There are more than 50 collection sites throughout Onslow County waiting to be filled by unwrapped toys, Assistant Coordinator for Eastern Carolina Region Toys For Tots Marine Sgt. Arthur Romans said. More than 5,000 children’s Christmases were made just a little more special thanks to donations last year.

“I have been doing this for 10 years and this is probably the busiest I’ve ever been,” he said. “The number of requests to be drop-off locations has probably tripled this year.”

Last year Toys for Tots collected more than 50,000 toys for children in the Onslow County area.

Romans hopes to double that number this year and sees the organization hitting at least 75,000 toys collected.

Toys for Tots partners with Onslow County Christmas Cheer, which acts as an information and distribution hub, collecting applications for families and the specifics like ages and genders of children.
Christmas Cheer has been in place for nearly 50 years helping to bring the Christmas spirit to children whose families may not be able to make it on their own.

“We work hand in hand with Toys for Tots to make sure our kids are taken care of,” Christmas Cheer Toy Coordinator Linda Fountain said. “If I see I am running short of a certain age group I can call Toys for Tots and they always come through.” 

Currently there are 3,000 families requesting assistance for Christmas, Romans said. The number of applications turned in for Onslow County has risen this year because of the effects of flooding from Hurricane Matthew.

Even though the number of requests has gone up, Romans is confident that Toys for Tots will be able to make each Christmas special for Onslow County children.

“This county is fantastic,” Fountain said. “It is really great at pulling together and getting what we need to get our families and children taken care of.” 

Due to the close proximity to Camp Lejeune, Marines are an integral part of the local toy collection efforts, standing at major collection points like Toys R Us.

The presence of a Marine in their dress blues tends to fill up the collection boxes quicker, Romans said.

“We also work closely with MCCS on base,” he said. “There’s a big support that comes from the base. It is wonderful to have their support and their backing behind us.”

Each PX on base also has a collection box, Romans said; and Marines volunteer their time at the Toys for Tots location on base, sorting and counting toys.

When shopping for toys to donate, the sky is really the limit, he said, but toys aimed at older children, around age 11, are always needed.

“The younger ages are easy to shop for,” Romans said. “It is the oldest kids that can be difficult.’”

He also said bicycles and helmets are a great donation as well.

Collection ends Dec. 16 to give Christmas Cheer and Toys for Tots time to count, sort and distribute the toys to families by Christmas.

Volunteers are also welcome, but because of the location of Toys for Tots on base, offering help at Christmas Cheer may be easier.

Major drop-off locations in Jacksonville include Harley-Davidson, Barnes and Noble, Toys R Us and Lowes Foods on Gum Branch.

A complete list of collection box locations can be found online at toysfortots.org.

Donations may also be taken to Onslow County Christmas Cheer, located at 1210 Hargett St.