TOYS FOR 1,400 TOTSPublished 8:40pm Thursday, December 19, 2013
By 10:30 a.m. Sunday, the line wrapped around the fellowship hall, around St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, all the way out to East Second Street in Washington. Parents, relatives, caregivers were there to pick up toys for children who, without Toys for Tots, may have had to do without come Christmas morning.
This year, a little over 900 Beaufort County children, and several hundred more from surrounding counties, were given toys from local Toys for Tots donations.
“Beaufort County really stepped up to the plate and did a great job of donating toys,” said Lisa Woolard, with Beaufort-Hyde Partnership for Children.
“I think we did very well,” said distribution organizer Mary Parker Egbert. “I think we had a total of 5,000 toys, serving 1,400 children.”
“The toys satisfied the toy demand for Beaufort County children, and we were also able to assist the toy needs for Hyde, Tyrrell and Washington counties,” said Rich Morin, Toys for Tots collection coordinator.
The three represent the three-pronged approach of Toys for Tots: Woolard handles the signup of families; Morin organizes the toy collection through offices and businesses across the county; and Egbert catalogues and distributes them to those in need. On the south side of the river, Citizens on Southside runs a smaller intake and distribution center for those who can’t easily make the trip to Washington.
“It takes a lot of people to make this successful and it is successful,” Woolard said. “It’s a huge effort on a lot of people’s parts.”
Egbert said over 100 volunteers made the distribution of the toys possible: unloading, counting and sorting into appropriate age groups. From noon to 6 p.m. Sunday and again on Monday, more volunteers picked out toys according to a child’s sex and age group.
“It boiled down to two toys per child,” Egbert said.
According to Woolard, the number of children in need of gifts was down from Christmas 2012, a fact she partially attributes to other organizations providing similar service. Woolard said she’d like to see the number of those in need shrink even more next year.
“We like to think of ourselves as a toy of last resort,” Woolard said, adding that when the Marine Reserves started the program so long ago, they did it because they couldn’t stand the idea of children waking up on Christmas morning without at least one gift under the Christmas tree.
During the intake process, Woolard said she always advises those signing up for the program to prepare for next Christmas, starting now.
“I tell them that for $1 a day — the cost of a soda — they could have $365 for their children next year,” she said. “Then they can buy what their children really want for Christmas.”