toys for tots

FOR A CAUSE — Terri Lucas arranges toys inside the bins at Jamie's Soda Fountain, one of the Toys for Tots collection sites.

Nearly 30 Howard County businesses are helping to make Christmas special for area children by collecting toys for the annual U.S. Marine Corps Reserve’s Toys for Tots program.

This year, the number of collections sites is higher than usual, according to Sgt. Michael Walmsley. The hope, he said, is to bring in enough toys to be able to help all children who are in need.

“We want to make sure to get as many toys as possible, but at the same time, the more families we help it means the more families are struggling. So we kind of don’t want a big campaign, but at the same time, we’re just trying to make sure as many kids as possible have an outstanding holiday,” Walmsley said.

Last year, toys were given to 975 families in Howard County, and Walmsley is anticipating serving around the same number again this year. In all seven counties the program serves, a total of 3,500 families received 11,870 toys.

The significance of the toys, Walmsley said, goes beyond being something for children to play with.

“A lot of people ask us, ‘What good is a toy? What is the significance of one toy?’ And it’s not really what the toy is. It’s what the toy represents, and it’s just hope. People are still trying to take care of you. People still want children to have a great holiday, and no kid deserves to not have a toy for Christmas,” he said.

Large Toys for Tots boxes are set up in businesses around the county where donations of new, unwrapped toys can be dropped off.

Jamie’s Soda Fountain is one of the collection sites, and owner Terri Lucas said the restaurant has been receiving toys almost nonstop. Three boxes have been filled, and Lucas hopes to fill at least two more before the collection wraps up on Dec. 9.

This is the third year Jamie’s Soda Fountain has participated, and Lucas said it’s a worthwhile cause.

“We like to honor all of our veterans that gave and all the ones that are still serving and the ones that are still with us, and we like the fact that they help out kids in this area. It’s great. We like to be a part of that,” Lucas said.

To request a toy, visit toysfortots.org and click “request a toy.” Toys are being accepted through Dec. 9, and toys will be distributed on Dec. 12 and 13.

Howard County collection sites:

Edward Jones, 124 N. Dixon Road

Solidarity Credit Union, 118 N. Dixon Road

Solidarity Credit Union, 201 E. Southway Blvd

Five Below, 1423 S. Reed Road

Walt Moss Barbershop, 301 N. Main St.

Jamie's Soda Fountain, 307 N Main St.

Harley Davidson, 909 N. Washington St.

K-Mart, 705 N. Dixon Road

Kokomo High School, 2501 S. Berkley Road

Western High School, 2600 County Road S. 600 W, Russiaville

Walmart, 1920 E Markland Ave.

Shelter Insurance, 3827 S. Lafountain St.

Menards, 1715 E. Haven St.

WWKI, 519 N. Main St.

98.5 Rock Station, 671 E. 400 S.

USMC Recruiting office, 1016 S. Reed Road

UAW Local 685, 929 E. Hoffer St.

Golden Corral, 287 S. 00 E.W.

CRM Properties, 2626 S. Webster St.

Meijer, 2301 E. Markland Ave.

Markland Mall, 1114 17th St.

FCA US Transmission Plant, 2401 S. Reed Road

VFW Post 1152, 920 N. Washington St.

St. Vincent Medical Group, 188 E Southway Blvd

Ross Medical Education Center, 196 E. Southway Blvd

T-Mobile, 1810 E. Boulevard St.

Bradford Run Apartments, 3604 Briarwick Drive

Outback Steakhouse, 3730 S. Reed Road