John Pradelski, the Toys for Tots coordinator for Fulton and Montgomery counties, said he hopes when people are shopping this year, they remember all the children they can help by donating a toy this year.
"I'm grateful for every toy that I get," he said.
According to the Toys for Tots website - www.toysfortots.org - the primary goal of the program is "to deliver, through a new toy at Christmas, a message of hope to less fortunate youngsters that will assist them in becoming responsible, productive, patriotic citizens."
The Toys for Tots Christmas Cruiser is shown in the Johnstown Holiday Parade on Nov. 19.
The Leader-Herald/Bill Trojan
The Toys for Tots campaign has been done each year since 1947 by the U.S. Marine Corps along with its partners, the Marine Corps League and authorized local community organizations, a news release said. The program collects new, unwrapped toys and distributes those toys as Christmas gifts to needy children.
Pradelski, a member of the Adirondack Detachment 787 Marine Corps League of Mayfield that oversees the program locally, said this year the campaign is getting some help from the Fulton County Sheriff's Department.
U.S. Marine Gunnery Sgt. Albert Roman, the active duty Toys for Tots coordinator stationed at the Glenvillebased Fox Company, said in the news release, this is the first time in his tenure as coordinator that the Marines have partnered with a law enforcement agency in Fulton County.
Sheriff's Department, Association helping
Fulton County Sheriff Thomas J. Lorey said members of both his department and the Fulton County Sheriff's Association volunteered to help collect donated toys for the program.
The official kickoff for the campaign locally took place at the Johnstown Holiday Parade on Nov. 19. A recreational vehicle, known as the Toys for Tots Christmas Cruiser, was at the parade, and spectators made toy donations during the parade.
A donation drive for the program also is set for today from noon to 4 p.m. at the Walmart store on Fifth Avenue Extension in the town of Johnstown. The event is scheduled to feature a community meet-and-greet with the sheriff's K-9 team and members of the U.S. Marines and the 787 MCL.
"We're holding the store event to try to bring families together to support a very important local cause - to help local children receive at least one new toy during the holiday season," Lorey said in the release.
Pradelski said in addition to the approximately 25 volunteers - some of whom are members of the detachment and its ladies auxiliary - who do work for the Toys for Tots local campaign, a number of social service agencies and businesses provide help as well.
He said some businesses even do promotions to help the program. For example, the Herba Motor Company, on Route 30 in Amsterdam, will offer a coupon worth 15 percent off parts or accessories with the donation of a toy valued at $15 or more.
Pradelski said there are more than 60 places in the area with the white boxes that feature the Toys for Tots logo.
"I couldn't manage [to get enough toys] if it weren't for the local businesses around here," he said.
Last year, more than 3,700 toys were distributed to 1,400 needy children in Fulton and Montgomery counties.
Pradelski said the program helped about 400 families that signed up to get a toy, in addition to those who were on a list from one of the local non-profits the campaign works with.
"I expect to help the same [number of families] if not more based on the economy," he said.
The toys collected are sorted by gender, age and usability prior to distribution.
Pradelski said people should only donate what they can afford to give.
"If all you can do is a $2 toy, that's great," he said.
While more expensive items - such as a bicycle or video game system - are appreciated, Pradelski said, those items are normally given to a deserving child after some sort of random drawing. The concern is if children come to pick up their toys, he said, it will not be fair if one child pedals away with a new bicycle, while another child gets a $2 toy.
Pradelski said anyone interested in helping the Toys for Tots campaign is invited to attend the event today. People can purchase a new toy at Walmart and bring the item outside to a Marine, he said, or they can provide a monetary donation to program officials.
Lorey said people can drop off new toys in their original store package at the sheriff's 911 Emergency Communications Center on Route 9 in Johnstown through Dec. 10.
Pradelski emphasized that every toy and dollar donated stays in the area.
"It feels good to make sure a child has a happy Christmas,"he said.
This year's toy drive will end Dec. 12.
Pradelski said families who are interested receiving toys may sign up for the program by calling Catholic Charities at 762-8313, from this Monday through this Friday, between the hours of 8:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m.
Toys will be distributed from Dec. 15 to 18 at the former Jansen Avenue School in Johnstown.
Families that sign up will be given a number and advised what date and time to come to the school to pick up their toys.
For a complete list of toy drop locations and supporters, visit the website www.toysfortots.org and select New York, then Fulton County.