Photo by Elaine Rackley
There were only three stuffed toys in the Toys for Tots box at the Lovejoy Publix grocery store.
LOVEJOY — The Toys for Tots campaign is about to swing into full gear for some communities across the country. However, in Lovejoy, things are looking a little scarce.
The Toys for Tots box at the Publix there only had three stuffed animals in the box around noon on Tuesday.
“You never know for sure, grocery stores in some areas aren’t always the best locations for toy drop offs,” said Bill Grein, the Toys for Tots Vice President of Marketing. “The American public has been very supportive of Toys for Tots over the years and I don’t believe they want to see us fail. We have never had a year that has been strikingly bad and that is on a national level. It is very possible that some units may have had a bad year in their city. But overall on the national level I have not seen it.”
Toys for Tots has been collecting gifts for underprivileged children for 65 years, according to Grein.
Grein said people generally do not go to the grocery stores to drop off Christmas gifts as much as they do when shopping for toys for their families.
“So, when they buy toys for their kids or grandkids, they buy toys for us. In some locations, grocery stores are a great location, and in others they are not. It could be that the Marines already picked up the toys.”
Grein said he could only speak from a national perspective about the annual toys campaign. He added 85 to 90 percent of the toys are collected between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
“It is still very early in our program,” he said. “Toys for Tots seems to catch fire right after Thanksgiving. Toys start falling out of the sky, so to speak. This is our time to shine.”
Grein said Toys for Tots has a year-round campaign in Virginia.
“Our job is to raise toys, books and other gifts for children to send to 740 of our Toys for Tots programs across the country,” he added.
He said back when he began working with Toys for Tots in the mid-1980s they were helping around 3 million children.
“Last year, we reached 7.2 million children,” he said. “We have more than doubled the program in 26 years. But sadly there are more children living in poverty today than there were back in the mid-’80s.”
For the last six to seven years, Toys for Tots has given Christmas gifts to 7 million children or more, according to Grein.
“In 2007, we went up to 7.7 million children and we have not been close to that in the last three to four years,” he said. “It has remained at 7.2 for the last 3 to 4 years. We’re proud of that to get that many toys for that many children. We would like to be able to reach them all, that is the U.S. Marine Corps way.”