During the past five years, some 11,000 toys have been given to 5,000 families in the tri-county area, an accomplishment that makes longtime coordinator Ed Hearthway proud.
“People have been very generous. In fact, we were still taking toys until the middle of this week and still giving them out to organizations. Toys are collected in October, November and December for children aged 0 to 12 year olds.
“For young ladies, we give perfume, something like that. Very young girls like doll babies. Older girls are harder to shop for so we might give them watches. We ask people to donate new, unwrapped toys, but no guns and no bows and arrows. No gift cards, either,” Hearthway said.
“We limit the price per item to no more than $30 to be able to stretch the donated dollar,” he added.
He’s been coordinator for 16 years but now, facing health problems, he is leaving the position and hoping someone takes over. “We’ve been looking for a successor for the past three years,” he said.
Anyone interested can see wwwtoysfortots.org for application information.
“I think 16 years is long enough. It’s time for someone else to take over, some new blood. I also acquired some health issues along the way. They sort of compromise my ability to do a good job. Other Marines and their detachments, family and friends, have stepped up to help this year and they’ve done a great job,” he said.
The generous of the community drop off toys at 130 locations in Wicomico, Worcester and Somerset counties each year. The U.S. Marine Corps detachment is involved in distribution, fulfilling the objective of the founder, Marine Col. William L. Hendricks.
He started the organization in 1947 to send “a message of hope to less fortunate youngsters that will assist them in becoming responsible, productive, patriotic citizens,” according to Toys for Tots history.
The founder wanted youngsters to “experience the joy of Christmas” while volunteers played “an active role in the development of one of our nation’s most valuable resources, our children.”
Since 1947, more than 512 million toys have been given to more than 237 million youth.
“We collect toys from drop-off locations at area businesses,” Hearthway said.
“We rely on organizations like the Salvation Army, Salisbury Outreach Service and The Joseph House. In Wicomico County, there are about 20 agencies that receive our toys.
“We collect toys and rely on these agencies to distribute them to families based on the eligibility of people who apply,” he explained.
“There’s a need out there so we try to meet it,” Hearthway said.
“It has been absolutely satisfying work. I have met a lot of very interesting people in different organizations,” he said.
“You can walk around town and you have volunteers wearing Toys for Tots T-shirts or baseball caps or something and people will walk up and say something to you. That is always refreshing to hear.”
Reach Susan Canfora at firstname.lastname@example.org.