WEST JEFFERSON-Ashe County’s first official Toys for Tots campaign smashed its 2016 goals en route to spreading a little extra holiday cheer to more than 100 local kids.
That’s according to campaign organizers, who were able to pull together gifts for 162 Ashe County children this year. Each gift bundle – made up of age appropriate items for everything from newborns to adolescents – was picked up the week before Christmas.
“It worked out better than we ever would have thought,” Tom Northrop, a member of the High Country Marine Corps Detachment 1389, said. “Especially considering this is the first year.”
The local Marines received their official authorization to deliver toys to local kids in need this summer, but the group can trace the campaign’s origins back to a “Stuff the Truck” program first held in 2013. The detachment considers that its first unofficial toy drive.
Applications for program consideration were dropped off at the county’s public schools, according to Northrop, and the group took the recommendations of the systems guidance counselors and teachers to form the basis for the children who would take part in this year’s inaugural Toys for Tots effort.
It then turned to local fundraising efforts and seed money donated by the Marine Corps Reserve’s national Toys for Tots campaign to purchase the toys.
“We were fortunate that we ended up with what we did,” Northrop said. “I mean, at this point, we were able to purchase everything we needed for this year and have some to get us started for next year. In fact, we’ve got to figure out now how we’re going to store what we’ve got left over.”
The toys were then assembled into gift bundles and placed inside black plastic garbage bags. Even the inauspicious wrapping had a purpose.
“Doing it this way, we try to spread what we have around as best we can and we don’t know which kid is going to end up with what,” Northrop said. “Some of these families have three, four or five kids in the family, and they don’t pick anything out, just a bag. So there’s no favoritism to it.”
Now, Luke Whichard, Toys for Tots Coordinator for High Country Marine Corps Detachment 1389, said the group is already turning its sights to 2017.
“We had a great first year – it’s been a lot of work but it’s been great,” Whichard said. “But we won’t have the kind of help from the national organization next year that we had this year, so we’re already planning when we’ll need to run fundraisers.”
Reach Adam Orr at 336-489-3058.