The Athens Area Toys For Tots recently had their annual partner appreciation banquet to review the year’s impact and celebrate those involved. Toys For Tots is one of those things that most people have heard of – maybe you’ve even donated a toy at some point, but don’t hear of the impact that their donation makes. If you aren’t familiar with Toys for Tots their desired goal is “to deliver, through a new toy at Christmas, a message of hope to less fortunate youngsters that will assist them in becoming responsible, productive, patriotic citizens” (TFT). This post will give you a better understanding of Toys For Tots as a national organization, how they have been impacting the Athens community for good, and how you can get involved this year.

A Brief History of Toys For Tots

Toys for Tots was founded by marine reservist Bill Hendricks in 1947 in Los Angeles to provide toys to needy kids at Christmas. He was inspired to start this charitable project when his wife tried to donate a doll to a child and couldn’t find any organizations that would help her. At her request he gathered a team of other marine reservists to gather toys in bins outside of Warner Bros. movie theaters. They were able to gather and donate 5,000 toys to poor children that year. In addition to being a marine reservist, Bill Hendricks happened to also be the director of PR at Warner Bros. Studios. He used his media connections to gather support for the cause and in 1948 Toys For Tots became a national organization. Ever since then, Toys for Tots has been collecting millions of toys during October, November, and December and distributing them to millions of children. In 1995 the U.S. Secretary of Defense made Toys For Tots an official mission of the U.S. Marine Corps. In 1996, the marines enlisted the help of local and community organizations.

Nationally, Toys for Tots spends 97% of it’s budget on providing toys, books, and gifts for kids. Only 3% of funds are not spent on these purposes and go toward fundraising and overhead. Our local Athens Area program goes farther, using 100% of every dollar raised exclusively for toy purchases, with overhead expenses funded by the Athens Jaycees.  Toys for Tots is completely volunteer run.

How tft has effected the Athens community

Michael Seibert At Athens Toys For Tots CeremonyToys For Tots has been active in the Athens community for decades. Back when the UGA Health Campus was a Naval Academy, the Navy officers at the academy oversaw Toys For Tots in Athens. When the Naval Academy was shut down ten years ago, the Athens Jaycees stepped up to keep Toys For Tots operating locally in Athens.

The Athens Jaycees are “a group of young professionals who strive to make a difference in our community through leadership and education.” This year, Jaycees president and The Sign Brothers co-owner Michael Seibert acted as the Program Coordinator for the Athens Toys For Tots campaign. The Jaycees help by coordinating registration, toy collection, warehouse organization, and toy distribution. For a family to receive a toy, the parent must submit an application with proof of need, I.D., and birth certificates for any children to receive toys. It’s the Jaycees’ job to screen & register families and to ensure that all Athens area children in need get toys for Christmas.

Toys for Tots was able to provide toys to 2,461 less fortunate children throughout the Athens Clarke, Oconee, Madison, Greene, and Oglethorpe counties in 2017. The Jaycees couldn’t have done it alone, there were dozens of businesses that volunteered as collection sites for toys. There were 14 businesses that collected and donated over 250 toys apiece. The local Marine Recruiting Office supported the program by attending public events in uniform along side the Athens Jaycees.  With the outstanding support of the community, the Jaycees were able to beat their goal of providing every child with two toys and one stocking-stuffer; every child received at least 3 toys and multiple stocking-stuffers.

Athens Toys For Tots Awards Ceremony

How You Can Get Involved In toys for tots

Toys For Tots exists because everyday people like you give their time and resources to help less fortunate kids in the community. There are a number of ways that you can get involved in the Toys For Tots mission:

  1. Donate toys, like those DIY wooden playhouse kits for children online, at a collection site during the months of October, November, or December
  2. Set up a collection location at your local business or organization during the months of October, November, or December
  3. Make a (tax deductible) donation to your local Athens Toys For Tots initiative any time of the year
  4. Make a (tax deductible) donation to the international Toys For Tots initiative any time of the year
  5. Donate a vehicle to Toys For Tots
  6. Create a fund raising team
  7. Donate to the Toys For Tots Native American Program

Toys for Tots has been a valuable part of the Athens community. We’re glad we’ve gotten to be a part of their efforts to provide toys to children in need, and we look forward to seeing the impact that this organization will continue to have in our community.