LIMA — The Salvation Army, Lima Noon Optimist Club and the United States Marine Corps have officially started the annual Toys for Tots campaign, an initiative that brings hope to children’s lives across Allen County, said Salvation Army Maj. Debbie Stacy.
For more than 60 years, the Toys for Tots campaign has collected new, unwrapped toys, books and essential items and donated them to families in need during the Christmas season.
On Wednesday, members from each of the participating organizations gathered at the Elks Club to kick off the campaign.
Last year, Toys for Tots delivered $45,000 worth of toys to over 17,000 kids across Allen County. This year, there are 179 drop off locations throughout Lima. The campaign will officially end Dec. 10.
“This [campaign] is an encouragement for the entire Lima community to continue this tradition of generosity and selflessness,” said Lima Mayor David Berger during his annual Toys for Tots proclamation.
“All citizens of Lima [and] Allen County should stand up and take notice of the Lima Noon Optimist Club and their Toys for Tots campaign so that they may be successful in providing joy and hope for the children in our community,” said Allen County Commissioner Jay Begg during the Toys for Tots proclamation from the commissioners. “Those children are the future leaders of our country and our society.”
Salvation Army Lt. Georges Junie Neillard said she is proud to be a part of the Salvation Army and the Toys for Tots campaign because she is blessed to give back to the community.
“We live in a community and God called us to lead it through unity and togetherness,” said Neillard. “I know that we give because we are blessed, and it’s not an opinion, its a fact.”
Although the Toys for Tots campaign has successfully donated hundreds of toys to children and families in need every year, the Salvation Army has been faced with several challenges this year, said Stacy.
“The economy that is shifting from visible shopping to local stores to retailers and online shopping with the click of a finger,” said Stacy. “Many times individuals may see a toy box and they go into it and they think, ‘I need to grab an extra Barbie doll or grab something extra.’ But when they shop online, they don’t think about it.”
The Toys for Tots campaign was also affected by store closings like Toys R Us, which was a store that donated every year. Also this year, local merchants have limited their toy boxes or have even cancelled boxes, said Stacy.
“With the challenges that we are facing, we are trusting God who has provided faithfully throughout the many years that we have done the Toys for Tots program,”said Stacy. “People think Christmas is just another holiday and wonder why Christmas is a necessity. It’s a necessity because of the joy that you put on a child’s face. It’s a joy because we are able to provide them with just a little love when they think the world is hopeless.”
For more information regarding drop off locations or how to donate, contact The Lima Noon Optimist Club at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the website at http://limaoptimist.com.
Reach Camri Nelson at 567-242-0456 or on Twitter @CamriNews.