Toys for Tots program gets community support

Giving to loved ones is a holiday tradition, but sometimes so is giving to strangers. Especially children.

And that’s when you send in the Marines.

The Marine Corps has been making sure there are presents under Christmas trees seemingly as long as Santa himself, courtesy of the Toys for Tots program.

In Centre County, coordinating those efforts is the mission of retired Maj. Eugene Weller of the Nittany Leathernecks Detachment.

“What is better than an organization like the United States Marine Corps that for the last 66 years has been trying to get toys for needy children for the holiday?” Weller said.

For one month, with collection boxes at retailers and other organizations throughout the area, Toys for Tots will collect enough new, unwrapped gifts to bring a little holiday sparkle into the lives of kids who need all the seasonal spirit they can find.

The Lemont-based local group serves underprivileged children from seven Centre County food banks (Bellefonte, Howard, Millheim, Philipsburg, Potter, Snow Shoe and State College) in addition to foster children and kids involved in other service agencies, including those sheltering through the Women’s Resource Center. Overall, Weller said about 10,000 kids will receive gifts.

Now quadruple that. Toys for Tots aims for four presents per child, and you have a goal of 40,000 toys to be acquired by Dec. 16.

“That’s the last day that we need everything to be at The Penn Stater,” Weller said.

Presents will be wrapped at The Penn Stater, and the public is welcome to cut paper and tie ribbons.

In addition to toys, the group also accepts monetary donations, which are used to purchase gifts for the age groups least likely to have presents dropped off, such as those under 2 or over 10. Donations can be made online at http://lemont-pa.toysfortots.org.

“We get amazing support from the community,” Weller said. “That’s the only way this thing can come together.”