The U.S. Marines have called in the reserves for its Toys for Tots campaign.
The annual drive, which provides toys to children 12 and younger for Christmas morning, needed a helping hand itself this year after several Marines in the region were deployed.
That’s when the Army Reserve 957th Quartermaster Company, which moved to Denton this summer, jumped on board to assist in the mission.
It’s the fifth year for the U.S. Marines Toys for Tots campaign in Denton County and could be its biggest yet if the community support continues this week in the final days of the collection, said Bill Sullivan, owner of Denton Health and Fitness and the lead organizer for the local effort for the past four years.
Organizers are encouraging local residents to contribute a new, unwrapped toy or to make monetary donation. Sullivan said the main focus of the mission is on the tots.
“Our mission is to give a sign of hope to the economically disadvantaged and let them know someone cares,” he said.
The toy drive kicked off in November at the University of North Texas Homecoming Parade and will continue through Dec. 16, organizers said. The main toy collection event — originally scheduled for this weekend at Golden Triangle Mall — has been postponed until next weekend because of the wintry weather, pushing the groups’ efforts close to the cutoff time.
Army Reserves Commander Norma Cabañas said about half of the more than 200 members in her company are volunteering their time to assist in collections and promotions for the toy drive.
“My personal goal is to raise $15,000 so we can purchase toys directly from distributors tax-free,” Cabañas said.
Sullivan said he has been volunteering his time to Toys for Tots in Denton County since its inception.
“We are like the little brother to the DFW Toys for Tots campaign everyone is aware of,” he said. “I just want people to know we are out here to assist our county needs, too.”
Sullivan said he served two years as a Marine in the 1980s and, after moving to Denton County, he became part of the the Marine Corps League in Denton.
“I not only wanted to be part of a productive community, but I was able to keep in touch with Marines in the area, as well,” he said. “This year, thanks to the Army Reserve, we have double the donation boxes placed throughout the county.”
Last year, the toy drive helped more than 3,000 families. The toys are distributed locally through various organizations and children receive three presents each.
Cabañas said in an e-mail that the drive will make its final push for toys after the icy conditions improve. She said the safety of the volunteers is paramount and the drive and other activities at Golden Triangle Mall will run from Dec.13-15, ending just one day before all final donations have to be received.
After Dec. 16, donating money online would be the best way to help, Sullivan said, but he urges potential donors to remember that the Marines need time to shop and sort the donations in order to ensure that the gifts arrive by Christmas morning.
At least 98 percent of the donations are placed back into the community, organizers said. The other 2 percent is to cover promotional supplies.
Cabañas said everyone wants to help out, but she doesn’t want to take away from the Marines’ efforts.
“This is their event and they work hard each year to put this on,” she said.
To volunteer or make a donation, contact Cabañas at 214-916-8528 or at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the website, http://aubrey-tx.toysfortots.org/.