18th Toys for Tots drive underway

Submitted Photo Pictured with some of the toys that have been donated this year are, from left, Mike Roberts, Heather Brown and Terri Johnson.

Coming off of a record year in terms of the number of children supported through the toy drive, organizers of the local Marine Corps. Toys for Tots campaign are counting on the community’s generosity to make this year’s effort a success.

For the 18th straight year, The Resource Center is coordinating the Toys for Tots drive in Chautauqua County. Assisting in operating the campaign again this year are Chautauqua Connections, Inc., and the Chautauqua Connections Children’s Coalition.

Begun in 1947, the Marine Corps. Toys for Tots campaign seeks to deliver a message of hope to less-fortunate children throughout the United States by providing them with toys for Christmas. More than 700 toy drives are held nation-wide each year. The Resource Center has led the local toy drive since 2001. About 2,400 children usually are supported through the annual toy drive, and last year more than 2,600 Chautauqua County children received gifts.

The biggest change in the way this year’s drive will operate is that families — themselves, or through their children’s school or service coordinator — are encouraged to apply for assistance online. To do that, people should visit www.toysfortots.org and click on the “Donate or Request a Toy” link, then follow the steps to navigate to the Chautauqua County campaign.

People without internet access can apply in person. Walk-in applications will be accepted in the Resource Center’s facility at 407 E. Chestnut St. in Dunkirk from noon to 3 p.m. today. For Jamestown-area residents, applications will be accepted in The Resource Center’s offices at 200 Dunham Ave. from 1 to 4 p.m. Friday and from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday.

All applicants must bring identification for themselves and their children living in their household, as well as proof of household income. Children age 17 and younger whose families meet household income guidelines are eligible for assistance through Toys for Tots. Efforts are made to help all families that apply for assistance.

“If there is a need, we will do what we can to help,” said The Resource Center’s Terri Johnson, one of the toy drive’s lead organizers.

She and her colleagues are pleased with the outpouring of support they have received thus far. Toy collection boxes have been placed at more than 100 locations, and a number of businesses and organizations will be holding events to raise money and toys. The goal of the toy drive is to collect enough toys to provide one large gift and at least one stocking stuffer to every child who is registered to receive assistance.