LIMA — Toys under the tree is a highlight for children at Christmas, but that experience is not a guarantee for many children, even some in the Lima area.
Enter Toys for Tots.
Established in 1947 and adopted by the U.S. Marine Corps in 1948, Toys For Tots collects new, unwrapped toys, books and stocking stuffer items to donate to families otherwise unable to provide gifts for their children at Christmas. In Lima, the Toys For Tots campaign was kicked off Wednesday by the Lima Noon Optimist Club. This year’s campaign will feature more than 200 donation boxes spread across 160 locations in the Lima area where donors can drop off toys.
“We take everything to the Salvation Army, and they sort it and get it ready by age groups,” according to William Lewis of the Lima Noon Optimist Club. “They also vet the people who apply, so we make sure that the people who get the toys are legitimately in need.”
Each year, the Lima area Toys for Tots campaign collects between 9,000 and 10,000 toys, distributing them among 2,000 families, on average. Last year, 1,810 children received toys through the program, with each one receiving about five items.
“That [number of toys] also includes little things like stocking stuffers, not just the big toys,” Lewis said.
Lewis credits area businesses, schools and other organizations, along with the general public, for helping to meet the need every Christmas season.
“Once we get the boxes out there, it’s up to the generosity of the people to drop them in those boxes,” he said. “We’ve been fortunate, over the last few years, that the city of Lima and the Allen County area have been very generous.”
Donations are being accepted now and will continue to be accepted through Dec. 10. Monetary donations to buy additional toys can also be sent by mail to the Lima Noon Optimist Club, P.O. Box 428, Lima, OH 45802. Make any checks or money orders out to Toys For Tots.