HANFORD — With its campaign drawing to a close soon, the local Toys for Tots program is hoping for another great year.
“This all depends on what the community makes it,” Staff Sgt. Erica Aguilar said.
The Marine Toys for Tots Foundation is an IRS recognized 501(c)(3) not-for-profit charity that collects and distributes new toys to local children.
Nationwide, the program distributes an average of 18 million toys to 7 million less fortunate children annually.
The local Toys for Tots program covers all of Kings County and the Fresno County cities of Coalinga and Huron. Aguilar said a little over 8,000 toys were distributed in the area last year to children 12 years old and younger.
Aguilar, who is in her second year as lead coordinator, said the program aims to give each eligible child two new toys.
Aguilar said there are many children in need in the community, so she just encourages people to donate before Dec. 5 if they can.
“We’re really busy this time of year and any support from the community that we can get, we really appreciate,” Aguilar said.
Aguilar said toys will be picked up from the various sites on Dec. 5-6 and be distributed at several partnering agencies between Dec. 15-18.
About 1,000 more children have been signed up for the program compared to last year.
Aguilar said the marines love giving back to the kids in the community and said the best part of attending the distributions is seeing the kids’ faces when they receive their toys.
“You see the marines kind of turn into kids again as they see these cool toys,” Aguilar said. “Then to see them turn the toys over to the kids is really cool.”
She said she recommends that adults pick toys that they would have liked when they were younger.
Toy drop-off locations:
- Above the Rest Barber Shop, 144 S. 11th Ave., Hanford
- Marciel Mortgage, 722 N. Douty St., Hanford
- All Valley Printing, 110 W. Seventh St., Hanford
- Panache Hair Designs, 123 W. Seventh St., Hanford
- Premier Collision Center, 12642 Hanford Armona Rd., Hanford
- Keller Motors, 700 Cadillac Ln., Hanford
- The Remington, 2727 N. 11th Ave., Hanford
- Bank of the Sierra, 427 W. Lacey Blvd., Hanford
- Rabobank, 218 N. Douty St., Hanford
- Black Bear Diner, 1790 W. Lacey Blvd., Hanford
- Urban Cuts (located in the Hanford Mall), 1769 W. Lacey Blvd., Hanford
- Lee’s United Gymnastics Academy, 505 W. Sixth St., Hanford
- Waterdrops Car Wash, 469 N. 11th Ave. or 1931 W. Lacy Blvd., Hanford
- Kmart, 215 W. Hanford Armona Rd., Lemoore
- Family Eye Care, 162 W. D St., Lemoore
- Olam, 1175 S. 19th St., Lemoore
- Micky’s Bar & Grill, 230 Fox St., Lemoore
There are also several events coming up:
- There will be a motorcycle run on Dec. 1 from Harris Ranch, 24505 W. Dorris Ave in Coalinga to the Elks Lodge, 200 Cambridge Ave. in Coalinga starting at 10 a.m.
- Navy Exchange Family Day will take place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Dec. 8 at Naval Air Station Lemoore.
- The OG Style Car Club toy drive will take place on Dec. 15 starting at 10 a.m. at Black Bear Diner, 1790 W. Lacey Blvd. in Hanford. Car clubs, solo riders and bike runs are welcome. The event is free to the public and will include trophies, raffles, a DJ and a visit from Santa Claus. For more information, call 831-1617 or 836-6714.
Toys for Tots was started in Los Angeles in 1947 when Diane Hendricks, the wife of Marine Corps Reserve Major Bill Hendricks, made handcrafted dolls and asked her husband to deliver them to an organization that supports children in need during Christmas.
When Hendricks told his wife he could not find such an organization, she told him he should start one. So Hendricks and members of his Los Angeles Reserve unit collected and distributed 5,000 toys to children in need that year.
The following year, after seeing how successful the drive was, the Marine Corps Reserve adopted the campaign and turned it into a national community action program. Since then, Toys for Tots has collected hundreds of millions of toys and distributed them to millions of children.
Aguilar said there will be an even greater need next year with the absence of longtime partner Toys”R”Us, so the program is always looking for businesses or organizations to host events. She said marines try their best to make themselves available at every event.
Any local business or organization that would like to be a future Toys for Tots drop-off site can apply online at the Toys for Tots website.