The local Toys for Tots campaign continues its partnership with the Marine Corps Reserves program to help children have a Merry Christmas.
Willie Dash, the local Toys for Tots coordinator, is pleased that the annual campaign continues to serve needy children in the area, noting that the national Toys for Tots campaign celebrates its 75th year this year.
The Marine Corps Reserves Toys for Tots campaign officially began Oct. 1 when authorities began accepting letters from children and families, but distribution of collection boxes was delayed.
“So far, we haven’t released any boxes. As usual, we have shipping problems, but I have a few boxes. Registration is done online as usual. We haven’t put out a lot of boxes in recent years with COVID, but we’re still looking for companies to sign up online,” he said.
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Dash continued: “If they want to take out boxes or want to have one in their business, they can always register online and we will bring them a box. They can register at www.orangeburg-sc.toysfortots.org.
Children write letters to Santa as part of the Marine Corps Reserves Toys for Tots program. Letters must be accompanied by a needs check from a school guidance counselor or church pastor.
A household summary from SC’s Department of Social Services, which confirms who is in a household and their age, must also be included, Dash said.
Families cannot register for help at community locations this year due to the pandemic.
Registration is done online at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Letters will be accepted until December 10.
Community residents read the letters and adopt children, but families of children who are not adopted will not have the opportunity to visit Santa’s workshop this year due to the pandemic.
“If not adopted, volunteers will select toys based on their age and gender. Everything will be prepackaged. It’s basically the format we’ve been following for a few years,” he said, noting that’s why it’s so important that they get the letters.
“The sooner the better. If you want the opportunity to be adopted, it’s important that they get the letters early,” Dash said.
While a deadline for accepting letters of December 10 has been set, Dash said the program will work to meet the needs of those who may have emergency needs.
Bikes, makeup, remote control toys and dolls are among the most requested items by children, he said.
The program helps children from birth to 14 years old in its service area. New unboxed toys will be accepted, as well as financial gifts for the purchase of toys.
The service region has traditionally included Orangeburg and Calhoun counties, but surrounding counties such as Bamberg will be served this year.
Dash said individuals can visit toysforttots.com and find the campaign closest to them and sign up for that campaign.
Individuals can donate online at email@example.com if they wish.
The toys will be collected until December 10. The toys will be distributed on December 17.
All donations made to the Orangeburg chapter stay in Orangeburg, Dash said.
The local program has an account with the Toys for Tots Foundation. All the money goes through that account, but it goes back to the local Toys for Tots program, Dash noted.
Boxes are distributed to businesses for the collection of new, unboxed toys, but this is only one way for the community, including churches, to join in the effort.
“They can adopt families, they can read the letters, they can get together as a group to volunteer in the warehouse, pack up toys, there are many different ways,” Dash said.
He stressed the importance of volunteers, especially during registration and distribution, which will also take place differently this year.
Dash said anyone wishing to volunteer for the campaign can also do so online.
“They can fill in (their information online) and tell us what time they are available and all that. They can do all of this online, or they can call me, whichever they prefer,” he said.
Dash said the organization does not yet have a distribution building. If a company would like to donate secure storage space, that would be appreciated.
Dash said adoptions have been declining in recent years. Despite everything, he is confident that the community will come together to make this year’s campaign a success.
“Even with everything that’s happened over the past few years, we’ve been more than able to handle what’s happened. So we’re trying to go a little further. We’ve heard from other smaller towns who needed extra help, so we’re trying to expand a bit more to cover other communities a bit further,” Dash said. “I think we’ll do pretty well.”
Those interested in donating money or sending in a request can mail it to: 1701 Belleville Road, Orangeburg, SC 29115. All donations should be directed to Marine Corps Reserves Toys for Tots.
For more information, Dash can be reached by phone at 803-290-2718 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dash is also the commanding officer of the Greater Orangeburg Leathernecks Marine Corps League, Detachment 1259.
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