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Playing The Part

Toys For Tots Program Celebrates 75 Years Of Providing

Local Toys for Tots coordinators, pictured from left, are Michael Roberts, Heather Brown, Patrick Smeraldo and Terri Johnson. Submitted photo

Chautauqua County Toys for Tots, the U.S. Marine Corps’ premiere Community Action Program, has announced its 23rd year of supporting less fortunate children across Chautauqua County.

Locally, the Toys for Tots program started in 2000 by supporting nine families in need in the area and partnering with the program in the Buffalo area to becoming a full “Local Community Organization” just a few years later. In 2022, the organization was able to provide toys to 4,437 children in 1,634 families in the community.

Toys for Tots began 76 years ago. A single hand-knitted doll turned into a nationwide flagship children’s Christmastime charity and much more. The Toys for Tots program began in 1947 when Marine Corps Reserve Major Bill Hendricks and the Marines in his Reserve unit collected over 5,000 toys in 1947 and delivered them to children in need in the Los Angeles area.

Local Toys for Tots coordinators Heather Brown, Terri Johnson and Patrick Smeraldo indicate the need this year appears to be greater than ever. Though they have placed more than 100 collection boxes at local businesses throughout the county, the group can still use donations for the next few weeks.

Toys for Tots provides gifts to children ages birth through 17 in households who meet the poverty guidelines or are experiencing other circumstances that do not allow the parent or guardian to provide toys for Christmas.

“We are run 100% by volunteers and depend on more than 100 supporters to help sort and bag toys, and collect toys from box sites each year,” the organization said in a news release.

Applications are accepted online at Toysfortots.org from families through Dec 11, with distribution planned for Dec 16 and 20 this year. The group anticipates providing toys to more than 4,000 children in Chautauqua County this season.

For more information on how to donate or apply, contact the local Toys for Tots organization at Jamestown.NY@toysfortots.org

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