Proving that the spirit of giving is alive and well, about 200 people turned out for the annual Centre County Toys for Tots Kick-off breakfast Monday morning.
They gathered at the Ramada Inn on South Atherton Street to share a lot of enthusiasm over eggs, bacon and coffee, as a choir sang Christmas songs.
Centre County Toys for Tots Coordinator Gene Weller is a retired major in the U.S. Marines Reserve. He's grateful for the community support. "It's always been fantastic," he says. What's better than trying to provide toys for needy children during the holidays?"
Toys for Tots supporters represent a broad cross-section of the community, including area businesses, private individuals, various departments at Penn State, food banks and state social service agencies.
This is the 27th year the program has been sponsored by the Nittany Leathernecks, a detachment of active duty and retired U.S. Marines. The organization oversees the Toys for Tots collection campaign but area food banks and the State College Elks Club are in charge of distributing toys to needy children.
They're asking for donations of gifts that are appropriate for various age groups ranging from infants to young adult. That includes toys, books, games, sporting equipment, jewelry, watches, radios, backpacks and more.
Weller says, "We will have over 250 locations throughout the county where there will be collection boxes and barrels for folks to be able to drop off toys."
Each year Toys for Tots distributes over 3,000 items to children in Centre County. Those gifts go to families that celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Ramadan, and Kwanza.
Weller says, "We have to have them all in by Monday, Dec. 16 and we would like the public to also come out and help wrap the toys beginning on Saturday Dec. 14 at the Penn Stater. We'll wrap Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday as needed."
State College Area Food Bank Executive Director Carol Pioli says her organization helped distribute gifts to about 200 children last year. The food bank partners with the State College Elks Club. "It's a team effort," she says. "They deliver the toys to the Elks and we go over help organize and distribute. We pull the names and get the list. They distribute the toys."
And it's not just toys. According to Pioli the Elks also provide clothes, shoes and books. "We try to make this really really special for all of our clients," she says.
In the State College area, toys will be distributed Saturday Dec. 21 at the Mountainview Country Club.
Making it special is what this is all about. Weller says, "The satisfaction is seeing this all come together and knowing that really what it's about is trying to provide some hope and joy to needy children in Centre County."
For more information about Centre County Toys for Tots or to make a donation click HERE.
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