Coordinator: Toys for Tots effort’s reach grew in 2013

The Centre County Toys for Tots program grew in 2013 as more families were identified and the effort was extended to grandchildren, coordinator Gene Weller said Monday.

Weller noted that local food banks and the state police identified 1,501 children to receive toys, up from 1,440 in 2012. Each child received four new toys at Christmas.

“The need was increased from last year,” Weller said.

He said that 263 additional children received two toys each as grandparents living in the county or individuals with grandchildren living in the county were made eligible.

“We did, for the first time, invite grandparents to participate,” he said.

The program operates through the Nittany Leathernecks Detachment of the Marine Corps League.

Weller said that about 1,000 volunteers helped wrap and transport toys, some even coming out during a heavy snowstorm in mid-December.

“We had a lot of help from a lot of folks,” Weller said.

He said 450 children who were not registered through the food pantries and police received four toys each during the late walk-in weekend at the Hills Plaza, bringing the total number directly served to just more than 2,200.

Toys remaining after the program distribution period were donated to Centre County social service agencies, where they will reach an estimated 6,621 additional children, Weller said.

The effort involved more than 300 businesses and organizations across the county, with 250 sites serving as drop-off points for food and toys.

Food donated during the Toys for Tots drive was distributed to registered families.

Weller said support and volunteers came from local churches and youth groups, Scout troops, fire companies, Penn State offices and Navy ROTC, the army reserve and the Navy League of Central Pa.

In his wrap-up report, Weller said the volunteers “worked in concert to provide some ‘hope’ to children in our community that might have lost hope if not for this community effort. I am proud of this community and what it can accomplish for the less fortunate in our midst.”