’Tis the season to collect Toys for Tots

Date Published: 
Nov. 24, 2017

Coastal Point • Submitted : Members of the First State Detachment of the Marine Corps League are running around the community helping out with the Toys for Tots campaign.Coastal Point • Submitted : Members of the First State Detachment of the Marine Corps League are running around the community helping out with the Toys for Tots campaign.For anyone who has walked into a local business lately, chances are they’ve seen a Toys for Tots donation box.

“There’s a lot of need out there,” said David Kline, a member of the First State Detachment of the Marine Corps League, which organizes the annual toy drive and earlier this month placed the large collection boxes in various locations throughout the area.

“We have the toy collection boxes we put out, and we also put out cash collection boxes — you’ll see a little plastic box with our Toys for Tots logo on it. I have two Marines who have done that for quite some time,” said John Lowery, coordinator for the First State Detachment Marine Corps League.

“Several organizations have parties or events to support the program. We have local restaurants and some communities put on parties this time of year, and they either donate the proceeds or collect toys, and then we receive that from them.”

Lowery said collection boxes stay out until about the third week of December; however, they are periodically checked on and emptied by League members. The toys are then stored in a secure facility and sorted by age and gender — newborn through kids 11 and older.

“We fill all of our orders through nonprofits — schools, churches and other organizations. We don’t have the resources, because we’re a small Marine detachment, to distribute toys to individual families. We donate to those agencies, and they come and pick up the toys at our facility,” he said. “Last year, we distributed over 7,200 toys to over 4,000 children.”

The league has more than 50 toy drop-off sites at area businesses and community centers that have offered space to the cause.

“They are so generous to us. There’s just so much generosity down here. People really get into the spirit,” said Kline. “Without them, we wouldn’t be able to do what we do.”

Requests for toys are made through the detachment’s Toys for Tots website, noting the child’s age and gender, contact information and when they’d want to pick up the toys.

The detachment covers a large geographic area, including the Ocean City/Berlin, Md.-area, and lower Sussex County.

“All the members of our League help volunteer and do the work,” said Lowery.

Donated toys can vary in size, shape and value; however, items that look like weapons or gifts with food will not be distributed.

Along with toy collection, the detachment also collects monetary donations.

“We collect money throughout the year through various campaigns and then use that money to purchase toys for the current year. We also get toys through our collection boxes that we place,” he said.

Businesses have also been generous in donations, said Lowery.

“Toys R Us is a very active supporter of the Toys for Tots program. They are generous in their contribution. Every year we go shopping at Toys R Us in Salisbury and purchase several thousand dollars’ worth of toys. Jolly Roger had a Christmas in July event, where if people brought a toy to the amusement park, they got a discount on the cost of admission. That was a new thing, and they want to continue it next year.”

Everything donated is carefully tracked, noted Lowery.

“At the end of the year, we have to do an after-action report to make sure everything is accounted for. The foundation is nationwide, and they do their reporting through up to the Marine Corps Reserve.”

Toys for Tots isn’t the only community outreach in which the detachment actively participates.

“We support Toys for Tots, as well as the Semper Fi Fund, which is helping wounded veterans — mostly Marines,” said Lowery. “The thing about the Semper Fi Fund, as opposed to other veteran organizations — 96 percent of the money we collect goes directly to the veterans. It’s all volunteer — we don’t have any overhead to speak of. That’s important.”

Lowery said the detachment holds an annual golf tournament in June, which usually draws about 150 attendees, to support the Semper Fi Fund.

“We have fundraising events at the Ocean City convention center numerous times a year, five to six throughout the year, in support of Toys for Tots, the Semper Fi Fund and other veteran-related support activities.”

For veterans looking to get involved, Lowery said those who are not Marines can still be a part of the detachment.

“You can be an associate member of the Marine Corps League if you’re a veteran of any branch,” he said. “Most of us are retired. You get a point in your life where you have an opportunity to give back, and so it’s rewarding that we can give back and that the organizations we’re providing toys for is really grateful for it.”

Lowery said being a part of the Toys for Tots program is extremely rewarding and truly helps children in need during the holiday season.

“There are 4,000 kids that wouldn’t get a toy for Christmas if we didn’t do this. It’s good to know we’re supporting less-fortunate kids in our community.”

For more information on how to get involved or how to donate to Toys for Tots, visit https://ocean-view-de.toysfortots.org.