By Linda Looney-Bond
While metro-Atlanta Toys for Tots donations are down by approximately half this year, according to organizers, some host groups report that their collections exceeded anticipated goals.
The Georgia Department of Public Safety (DPS) reported that more than 5,000 toys were collected at DPS locations across the state this year, to be donated to the annual Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Program.
It was the first Toys for Tots campaign hosted state-wide by Georgia State Patrol posts, according to state officials. "This was a tremendous effort to make Christmas brighter for needy children in Georgia," said Colonel Bill Hitchens, commissioner of the public safety department, in a written statement.
"The number of toys collected exceeded every goal we set -- several times over," Hitchens said.
Toys collected at the 48 Georgia State Patrol posts, and the main DPS headquarters in Atlanta, will be distributed by the United States Marine Corps Reserve, according to DPS officials.
Cpl. Dwayne Fabian, Asst. Post Commander for Georgia State Partrol (GSP) Post 47, in Forest Park, said he looks forward to future Toys for Tots campaigns. "It was a great experience, having actually started this for the first time," said Fabian.
The Forest Park post, located at 5036 Ga. Hwy. 85, collected one large box of toys, according to Fabian. He said the toys were primarily donated by Post 47 employees.
GSP Post 1, which covers Henry, Spalding and Butts counties, collected hundreds of toys, according to Sgt. First Class Damon Riggins.
The post, which is located at 1313 Arthur K. Bolton Parkway, in Griffin, collected more than 560 toys, Riggins said. "We actually had a really good turn-out with it," he said. "There were three posts that were ahead of us, and they all had around 600.
"We didn't have it [collection box] out in our lobby, we had it in the back, so mostly everything that was donated, was donated by our department members," said Riggins.
"Our personnel here try to be very involved in the community, and we do a lot of events similar to this throughout the year," he said.
Also locally, a first-time Toys for Tots effort hosted at Clayton State University exceeded its goals. The university's Student Nurses Association conducted its Toys for Tots drive from early November, to early December, with a goal of collecting 100 toys for local children. There were two drop-off sites set up on the university's main campus in Morrow.
Jessi Hare, a "Break Through to Nursing" director for the Student Nursing Association, and co-organizer of the toy drive, said the organization surpassed its goal, however, by collecting 131 toys. "We were very excited that we exceeded our goal, since this was our first time doing this," Hare said.
Nursing students had been asked to put their names on any toys they dropped off, so they could receive community service letters that could go in their student nursing portfolios, but many toys were without names, Hare said. "That means we had a lot of faculty members, community members and non-nursing students who dropped off toys."
She said there was a wide variety of toys dropped off, ranging from Barbie dolls, to race cars, to science kits, to books. "We were surprised [by] the variety of toys we got," she said. "We thought all we would get was Barbie dolls."
Meanwhile, however, Toys for Tots donations metro-wide are down significantly this year compared to last, according to Gunnery Sgt. Edward Barrett, of the United States Marines Corps.
Barrett manages the Toys for Tots program for an 11-county area, that includes: Clayton, Henry, Fulton, Cobb, Dekalb, Douglas, Fayette, Newton, Paulding, Rockdale, and Cherokee counties. Toys collected from those counties are delivered to a central location, at 1280 Field Parkway, in Marietta, Barrett said.
By Monday, the metro-Atlanta campaign had collected 436,350 toys, compared to 710,502 toys collected last year, according to Barrett. He said the goal this year was 900,000 toys.
"We give toys to non-profit charitable organizations," he said. "As soon as we get toys to fill their order, we start calling them to pick them up."
He said Toys for Tots organizers have had to tell some organizations that the number of toys requested is not available. "We're trying to spread it out as best we can -- spread the wealth, so to speak," Barrett said.
He said collections at satellite locations ended Monday, however, donations were accepted at the Marietta central office until "mid-afternoon" Wednesday.
For more information, call (678) 225-4599, or visit www.atlantatoysfortots.com.
-- Staff Writer Curt Yeomans contributed to this report.