Four years ago there was a need for a Toys for Tots program in Hillsboro. Samaritan Outreach Services answered the call and has been filling that need ever since. After adding Fayette County this year, Samaritan expects to help about 900 kids have a Christmas they otherwise would likely not have.
“There was a void and someone brought it to our attention that there hadn’t been a Toys for Tots in Highland County for several years,” said Wade Hamilton, the Samaritan Outreach director. “We decided we were up for it. If there were kids that needed help at Christmas, we wanted to try to provide that. Samaritan Outreach is here to help the community, so it was a natural fit.”
That first year in 2013 Highland County Toys for Tots helped about 300 kids. Last year it helped about 500 children. Now it’s almost doubling last year’s total, so Samaritan Outreach could use your help.
Toys for Tots, initiated in 1947, accepts monetary and donations of new, unwrapped toys only. There are 25 dropoff locations in Highland County and another 18 locations in Fayette County. Monetary donations can be made at www.highlandcountytoys.com or can be dropped off at Samaritan Outreach, 537 N. East St., Hillsboro.
Samaritan was asked to add Fayette County to its list because the former coordinator there wasn’t able to do it this year.
“The Toys for Tots national foundation called us and asked if we would do it until they find someone next year. We were happy to do it,” said Hamilton, an assistant coordinator for Highland County Toys for Tots.”
The local coordinator this year is Hillsboro resident Becky Barnes. Her husband, U.S. Marine Todd Barnes, serves as an assistant coordinator with Hamilton.
Most kids that Toys for Tots helps receive a large toy in the $20 to $30 range, a couple smaller toys, stocking stuffers, and a book.
The program is funded through donations and a couple fundraisers. The national foundation also gave Highland County $3,000 this year to purchase presents.
Toys for Tots began 69 years ago when Major Bill Hendricks, USMCR, and a group of Marine reservists in Los Angles collected and distributed 5,000 toys to needy children. The idea came from Bill’s wife, Diane. In the fall of 1947, Diane handcrafted a Raggedy Ann doll and asked Bill to deliver the doll to an organization, which would give it to a needy child at Christmas. When Bill determined that no agency existed, Diane told Bill that he should start one. He did.
Since its inception, the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Program has distributed more than 313 million toys to 151 million children. In addition, the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation has supplemented the collection of local campaigns, providing more than 47.4 million toys valued at $243 million.
The Highland County dropoff points, open until Wednesday, are: Hillsboro – Big Ernie’s Pizza, Community Market, The Cutting Crew, Dollar General, Highland County Senior Center, Highland Lanes, Kmart, Kroger, NCB, Paul Mitchell Salon, Peebles, Samaritan Outreach, Veterans Service Commission, Walgreens, YMCA; Danville – Danville Church of Christ; Greenfield – Dollar General, Merchants Bank (both locations), Fifth Third Bank; Leesburg – Dollar General, Highland County North Joint Fire/Ambulance, Batter Up Bakery; Lynchburg – Pappy’s Pub; Mowrystown – Old Y Restaurant.
The Fayette County dropoff locations are: Washington C.H. – Fayette County Fire Dept., Walmart, Walgreens, Giovanni’s Pizza, Watson’s Office Supply, Kroger, Doug Marine Motors, Sugar Creek Packaging, Purina, Dollar General, Court House Customs, Fayette County Commission on Aging, True Blue Tattoo, Super Sport Barber Shop, Court House Chiropractic, YUSA; Jeffersonville – Starbucks, Toys-R-Us Express.
For more information call Samaritan Outreach at 937-393-2220 or visit www.highlandcountytoys.com.
Reach Jeff Gilliland at 937-402-2522 or on Twitter @13gillilandj.