Toys for Tots accepting donations

The Inter-Mountain photo by Beth Henry-Vance Roger Ware, right, Toys for Tots regional chairman, helps sort donated toys recently with fellow volunteer Judy Gum. Donations of new, unwrapped toys will be accepted through Monday at about 150 drop-off locations throughout the region.

Editor’s note: The Inter-Mountain’s annual Comfort and Joy series will continue in each edition leading up to Christmas.

ELKINS — While the regional Toys for Tots holiday gift program is operating from a new location this year, the mission is the same — to spread joy to as many underprivileged children as possible.

The local chapter had set up at the Elkins-Randolph County Regional Airport for the past 14 years, said Toys for Tots Regional Chairman Roger Ware. Since the county’s Office of Emergency Management/911 Center is set to transition to the airport, Ware said the Toys for Tots program had to find a new space this year.

Luckily, Craig Phillips, the owner of business locations at the Tygart Valley Mall in Elkins, agreed to let Toys for Tots set up at a vacant store near the New Start Thrift Shop for this holiday season.

Ware said without that generosity, the local Toys for Tots program would not have been possible this year.

He noted the project has a large impact on low-income families throughout the region, reaching children in Randolph, Lewis, Upshur, Barbour and Tucker counties and some areas in Harrison, Greenbrier, Pocahontas and Webster counties.

“Last year we had over 2,000 kids, over 1,000 families and over 14,000 toys, including stocking stuffers,” Ware said in an interview last week, as he and other local volunteers worked on sorting the toy donations.

About 150 donation drop-off locations have been set up throughout the region, allowing community members, businesses and agencies to donate new toys that will be distributed to children ages 2 to 14. There is still time to donate, as new, unwrapped toys will be collected through Monday.

Ware said there are numerous designated Toys for Tots collection boxes in Randolph and surrounding counties including, but not limited to: Dollar General stores in Elkins, Beverly, Buckhannon, Weston, Jane Lew, Belington and Philippi; Pack ‘N Ship in Elkins; Bill Umbright’s State Farm office; Jodie Parrack’s State Farm office; Skinner Insurance; Elkins Purple Majesties-Red Hat Society; Catholic Charities West Virginia; Landmark Baptist Church; Refuge Church; Applebee’s of Elkins; Randolph County Senior Center; Youth Health Services of Elkins; Smitty’s Suzuki of Buckhannon; Larry Brown of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3663 of Buckhannon; Fisher Auto Parts in Buckhannon; Farm Credit & Country Mortgages in Mt. Clare; Buckhannon Wing Co. LLC; Toys R Us in Bridgeport; John Bowers in Parsons; H & M Motor Co. in Weston; Kiddy Monument in Weston; Buckhannon Academy; Robert L. Bland Middle School in Weston; and Debbie Larkin and Davis & Elkins College Student Veterans Association.

Ware said monetary donations also are accepted, allowing the nonprofit to purchase new toys at discounted rates. The local organization still needs several toys for 2- to 3-year-olds, as well as older children, he added.

Each eligible child usually receives about five to seven new toys, plus stocking stuffers. Socks and gloves also are available to the children, Ware said.

Distribution days are scheduled for Dec. 20 and 21, and eligible families were given a pickup time and date when they registered.

Ware said he hopes the nonprofit can reach as many people as possible, as the goal is to make sure every child in need has at least one new toy on Christmas.

Toys for Tots is a national program operated by the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve and Marine Corps League.

The local program is operated by members of the Elkins Marine Corps League, with several members volunteering to sort and distribute the toys.

Ware said all the hours and miles spent volunteering for the program are worth it to the group.

“What else are we going to do? Some of us guys, we’re retired. It makes us feel good,” he said. “We get lots of hugs from families, and those are priceless.”

Roy Wood, one of the longtime volunteers, drives each day from his home in Valley Head to help with Toys for Tots. Wood serves as one of the local co-chairmen, along with Greg Irwin.

“Fifty-five years ago when I was on active duty, I never thought that I’d be doing this,” Wood said while sorting everything from baby dolls to board games.

Another longtime volunteer is Judy Guy, of Valley Bend, who is an associate member of the Elkins Marine Corps League. Guy said her husband, Harvey, also volunteers whenever he is able, and they both enjoy seeing how the program helps spread holiday cheer to underprivileged children.

“I had one lady that would thank me and thank me and thank me. That meant a lot,” Judy Gum said. “We have a lot of good memories.”

In addition to toy donations and monetary gifts, the local organization is in need of warehouse space for sorting and storing toys for the 2018 holiday season.

Any individual, business or corporation desiring to make a charitable donation to the Toys for Tots Program can mail contributions to the Elkins Marine Corps League, Detachment 956, P.O. Box 852, Elkins, WV 26241 or call 304-636-4365.

The national Toys for Tots Foundation, based in Quantico, Virginia, is a 501(c) (3) tax-exempt nonprofit charity and the authorized fundraising and support organization for the U.S. Marines Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Program.