With almost 3,000 children needing some sort of toys in the Cooper, Howard, Moniteau, Pettis and Saline Counties, the Toys for Tots is busy trying to make this Christmas a little brighter by providing at least two toys and a stocking stuffer. Co-Coordinator Elizabeth Schler said the program is needing toys for babies and teen children right now.
"We have had a lot of layoffs from local factories such as Caterpillar. We have had families of former workers of the Hostess Bakery come in as well. We have a large amount of families who live in motels in the area as well," Schler said.
Schler said it is important to provide for these children because they are the future of this country.
The program has seen support from numerous community organizations, which have provided the toys needed during these difficult times. Schler said the program will provide toys for about 1,000 more children than last year. She said this is due partly to the economic times.
Although only new toys are accepted, she said slightly used toys are okay, which will be used in a free garage sale. She said when Toys for Tots began, the Marines thought every child deserved a new toy.
"One dollar makes a difference. The least bit of donation is wonderful," Schler said.
She also said donations in form of money can be made out to Toys for Tots as well.
The program has expanded throughout the years. While it started in Columbia, it quickly outgrew its area, so Boonville became a distribution area.
Area Toys for Tots Coordinator Andrew Cutler, who is a former Marine, became the coordinator of the Cooper, Howard, Moniteau, Saline and Pettis Counties.
"Each year the group gets together with the Marine Corp group in Washington D.C. They tell us what areas to work with along with supplying a lot of the toys that were donated by the national toy companies. We also have our local drives as well," Cutler said.
The distribution center is located near 87 Diner. The center houses all the toys that will go out to the families in the area. Distribution has been going on since December 11.
Throughout distribution, Schler said there has been a lot of volunteers.
"We are asking if anyone could donate some baked goods for these volunteers during distribution, that would be wonderful," Schler said.
Toys for Tots accepts donations throughout the year.