Every year millions of families face the holidays wondering how they will give their children a Merry Christmas. While there is more to Christmas than gifts, no one wants to look in their children’s eyes and say Santa Claus won’t be visiting this year.
Many organizations step up each year to try to help low-income families provide gifts for their children. One of the most well-known is the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve’s Toys for Tot’s program.
The program began in 1947 by Major Bill Hendricks USMCR in Los Angeles and has grown to a nationwide program. Locally, Toys for Tots has operated for 17 years and is coordinated by Robin Clark, who also manages the Clearfield Ministerium’s Food Pantry.
Clark said the Clearfield County Toys for Tots program serves the entire county. It is important to make sure children know they matter because “they are our future,” she said.
Last year, more than 1,500 local children received gifts through Toys for Tots. Clark said they expect the number to grow and have already been receiving applications through the Web site since August.
She explained they try to give each child at least four gifts as well as crafts, stocking stuffers, candy canes and more, and one group that has been helping is the Wal-Mart Distribution Center in Woodland.
But more help is needed. Clark said while Toys for Tots serves children from birth to age 13, they really have a need for toys for children between the ages of 7 – 13 years, especially the 7- to 8-year-olds.
Local merchants throughout the county have donation boxes for new toys, and organizations are holding toy drives to help out.
One thing that really makes a difference is monetary donations, and Clark said any amount helps. All of the money is sent to Quantico, Va., and then placed in a special account specifically for Clearfield County and the money donated for Clearfield County is used specifically for local children.
Those interested in making a donation can send it to the office located at Trinity United Methodist Church, 121 S. Second St., Clearfield in care of Robin Clark.
Another need is for volunteers to help between Nov. 1 and Dec. 21. She said they need volunteers for every aspect of the program, from sorting toys, to packing them, to handing them out.
You can contact Clark at 814-765-1672 or 814-577-8778 for information, or stop by the church to talk with her.
What if you’re a family that needs some help this year? Clark said applications are already being taken online. Visit toysfortots.org, and click on “Find Your Local Toys for Tots Program.” Select your state, and then location (Clearfield), which takes you to the local page.
There you can sign up, make a donation or even volunteer your business to be a drop-off site. Phone applications will start Nov. 1 and that information will be posted on the site, or you can contact Clark at the phone numbers listed above.
To fill out an application, you will need your child’s social security number or medical card and you will need their birth dates, as well. The applications submitted online go straight to Clark.
“We couldn’t do it without the Marines and volunteers,” Clark noted.