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Marines’ Toys for Tots program has singular mission — toys

Toys for Tots objectives

The objectives of Toys for Tots are to help less fortunate children throughout the United States experience the joy of Christmas; to play an active role in the development of one of our nation’s most valuable resources – our children; to unite all members of local communities in a common cause for three months each year during the annual toy collection and distribution campaign; and to contribute to better communities in the future.

Fourth in a series

By Elizabeth Cook

ecook@salisburypost.com

You may have seen Salisbury Police officers camped out on the roof of Krispy Kreme during Christmas seasons past, collecting toys and donations for Toys for Tots.

You might even have contributed a new toy by dropping it into a Toys for Tots box at a local business.

But how do parents who can’t pay bills, let alone buy gifts, sign up to get something for their children from Toys for Tots?

For that matter, how does someone sign up for help from Christmas Happiness, the Salvation Army Angel Tree or other holiday programs, and how do you know which one to sign up for?

The Rowan County Christmas Bureau answers those questions by accepting applications for five different programs at once, including Toys for Tots, starting Friday, Nov. 7, at the J.F. Hurley YMCA.

Volunteers and agency personnel screen the applications to see what kind of help is most needed — food, clothing or toys — and then make sure the applications get to the appropriate program.

Toys for Tots stands out for two reasons. It is sponsored by the Marine Corps Reserves. And Toys for Tots sticks to what its name says — just toys.

Rowan County Toys for Tots Coordinator Arbe Arbelaez began volunteering with Toys for Tots in 1985 while in the Marine Corps. He and wife Ann have been running the Rowan County Toys for Tots program for several years.

“We want to take care of our own,” Ann says. “The toys collected here stay here in Rowan County.”

Toys for Tots’ website says the program’s goal is “to deliver, through a new toy at Christmas, a message of hope to less fortunate youngsters that will assist them in becoming responsible, productive, patriotic citizens.”

Well more than 1,000 children in Rowan received toys through the program each year, Ann says. To meet the need, donated toys flow in from many sources, in addition to the store boxes and the police event. Children’s birthday parties take Toys for Tots donations instead of birthday gifts. Office workers collect toys in lieu of exchanging gifts. Christmas parties have been known to include a toy drive for Toys for Tots, and schools have also collected toys.

All donations should be new, unwrapped toys.

Applications for toys can be made through the Christmas Bureau or the Toys for Tots website, www.toysfortots.org. Applicants should use just one of those options, not both.

Toys for Tots serves children up to age 12. The program tries to provide about $30 worth of toys per child.

The Arbelaezes and other volunteers match up requests with toys and gets them ready for distribution day, coming up on Dec. 18. Toys for Tots, Christmas Happiness and the Salvation Army Angel Tree will be giving out toys, gift cards and clothes that day at the old Winn-Dixie building — now Life Church — on Jake Alexander Boulevard. Qualifying families will receive appointment cards with more details.

This year, the Toys for Tots Foundation has split Rowan County, with the Cabarrus County Toys for Tots unit taking care of China Grove, Landis, Kannapolis and the rest of southern Rowan. That program, run under Cabarrus Marine Corps League Detachment 1175, is coordinated by Kenneth Brandon, who can be reached at dinkjr38@gmail.com or 704-788-1681.

The Rowan unit handles the rest of Rowan. The Arbelaezes can be reached at 704-633-8171.

Coordinated by the Rowan County United Way, the Christmas Bureau will accept applications for Toys for Tots, the Salisbury Post Christmas Happiness Fund, the Salvation Army Angel Tree, Project Santa and Operation Santa on the dates below, at J.F. Hurley YMCA, 828 Jake Alexander Boulevard W.:

• Friday, Nov. 7 — 8:30 a.m.-6:30 p.m.

• Saturday, Nov. 8 — 8:30 a.m.-2 p.m.

• Saturday, Dec. 6 — 9 a.m.-5 p.m.

The Christmas Bureau needs volunteers to help with that process. To volunteer, call the United Way at 704-633-1802.

Toys for Tots also needs people to help at its warehouse and on distribution day. Applicants may not serve as volunteers. Interested persons should call 704-633-8171.

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