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Centre County Toys for Tots Sees Another Successful Campaign

by on December 18, 2017 11:17 AM

The local community once again came through in a big way to support the Centre County Toys for Tots campaign.

Now in its 31st year, the annual effort to collect toys for children in need is sponsored by the Centre County Marine Corps League chapter, the Nittany Leathernecks Detachment. Retired Marine Corps Maj. Eugene Weller, who has been coordinating the countywide campaign since it's inception, estimated that more than 10,000 toys were collected between the launch in November and Dec. 13 when collections were picked up for wrapping from about 300 donation points around the county.

"We've been successful for a number of years and I would say this year has been equally successful," Weller said.

Centre County food pantries and food banks identify those in need and provide a list with ages and genders of the children to receive toys. Identified eligible grandparents can also receive gifts for their grandchildren. This year, 1,318 children were identified to receive toys.

Starting on Thursday night at the Penn Stater Conference Center Hotel, volunteers began wrapping the items and by Saturday afternoon all of the wrapping had been completed. A total of 775 volunteers participated, including 311 scout troop and youth group members who came on Saturday morning.

The wrapping was done "faster than we ever have before," Weller said.

"It’s amazing what you can do when you have that many people."

Wrapped items were taken to food pantries for distribution. Toys for Tots also has an "unregistered site" for those seeking assistance and who missed the deadline to be registered. They will be referred to Hills Plaza on Wednesday night when toys will be distributed.

"We’ll be bringing in stuff prepared for 700 children," Weller said. "Historically there’s about 450 to 600 that show up there. We’ve wrapped for 700, but we’ve got more things there if necessary."

If any gifts are left after the unregistered site distribution, 45 social services organizations will be invited to take the remaining items for their programming needs.

In addition to collecting toys, the Toys for Tots campaign also encourages donations to local food banks.

"Because the food pantries are our source of identifying needy families, about 11 years ago we were asked if we would also be able to collect food," Weller said. "At our annual kick off we invite the collection of food. We tell businesses, groups, churches, if you want to take it directly to your local food pantry have at it, but if it’s with the toys we will get it distributed to the food pantries."

More than 7,400 food items were collected along with toys at the Toys for Tots drop-off points.

Geoff Rushton is managing editor for Contact him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter at @geoffrushton.
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