For Grace Anderson, the Toys for Tots program provides a sense of “hope” for families who are less fortunate during the Christmas holiday. However, as the program nears its final month of collection, the Augusta Toys for Tots coordinator fears donations may not be enough to keep the program in the Augusta area.
Last year the U.S. Marine Corp Reserve program, which collects new, unwrapped toys during the fall and distributes them as Christmas gifts to less fortunate children in Richmond and 14 other surrounding counties, helped nearly 45,000 children. Anderson said donations this year, along with volunteerism, are at an all-time low.
“Right now if I had to say how many children we could cover based on what we have in our warehouse it would probably not even be 2,000,” she said Monday.
Part of the shortage is due to a recent burglary in which the local organization lost 58 bikes collected for its December distribution along with computers, desks, and chairs used by its staff.
“We would have been a lot further but our warehouse got broken into about a month and a half ago and someone stole approximately $25,000 worth of toys,” Anderson said.
The program also has not received sufficient support from the community, Anderson said. Discussions have already begun to discontinue the program in Augusta and surrounding areas which lack donations.
“We just don’t have enough people that are giving to actually support the counties in which we are providing toys for,” Anderson said. She used as an example Sunday’s toy drive at a Grovetown Walmart during which the organization collected $352 and less than 30 toys.
“We normally collect between $1,200 to $1,500,” Anderson said. “I don’t know if people are just not in the Christmas spirit of giving but this has been the worse campaign so far.”
In an effort to make up for the shortages, the organization is working with its partners, such as Savannah River Site and United Way, to raise more money to buy toys and fund distribution costs. The Augusta Building Trade will also present a $12,000 check to the local organization for the cause. The presentation is scheduled for noon Friday at 1250 Reynolds St.
“We are very grateful for this,” Anderson said.
As the program nears its Dec. 23 deadline, Anderson remains hopeful for more community involvement.
“I love Toys for Tots and I want it to succeed because if we succeed in helping children I think everyone would be happy, Anderson said. “I know what the devastation would be if Augusta Toys for Tots is no longer here. There would be a lot of unhappy children and families.”
The organization is scheduled to host a community night from 5 to 9 p.m. at Culver’s restaurant in Grovetown on Tuesday and will hold three additional toy drives from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Bed Bath and Beyond on Robert C. Daniel Jr., Parkway on Friday, and Babies R Us and Sports Academy Saturday.
Residents interested in making a donation can visit any of the Toys for Tots drive or visit augusta-ga.toysfortots online, or mail a check payable to Augusta Toys for Tots to its 1545 15th Street location.