The annual Toys for Tots collection period is now under way for those who want to make sure every child in Southwest Georgia will have at least one gift to open on Christmas Day.
The kickoff started at a news conference on Friday morning at Logistics Base-Albany, followed by an event on Saturday at the Toys R’ Us near the Albany Mall in which a truck was on-site to collect toys.
Now through Dec. 14, coordinators of the Southwest Georgia campaign are asking the public to donate unwrapped toys that are $20 or less in value for the region’s needy children. Last year, there were 36,000 toys collected.
The goal this year is for 45,000 toys to be collected at donation boxes at various community businesses, as well as community outreach efforts to get the word out.
Those involved with the campaign are expressing their gratitude for last year’s success while also working to build on that success and make sure people embrace the concept of giving.
“There is another side to the Corps,” said Gunnery Sgt. Jimmie Smith, the Albany area Toys for Tots coordinator. “That side has a heart for the well-being of the children in the community they live with. … That side is the Reserve Toys for Tots.”
Toys for Tots got its start in 1947 from Maj. Bill Hendricks in Los Angeles. Since that time, it has helped to instill a sense of hope and joy in many children, some of whom now volunteer with the campaign to reach out to the next generation.
Salvation Army Maj. Kelly English said last year’s campaign served 800 children in Dougherty County alone. Like Smith, he is hoping this year’s campaign turns out to be even more successful for the region’s children.
“When this relationship started with Toys for Tots, it was really about two organizations wanting to have the same impact on the community that was long lasting,” he said.
The Salvation Army’s role is to handle registration for families eligible to receive toys. For the Albany area campaign, that is being done Oct. 24-28 and Oct. 31-Nov. 4 at the Salvation Army office at 304 W. Second Ave.
“We just want people to feel the generosity that is in the community this year,” English said. “Year to year, we are always blown away in how the community pours itself out.”
Registration will take place between the hours of 9 a.m.- 1 p.m. on those dates for potential Toys for Tots families who have children up to age 14. On Oct. 28, the hours will be extended to 5 p.m.
The required documents include:
— State-issued photo ID;
— Birth certificates for all children being applied for;
— Current food stamp summary in the parent or guardian’s name;
— Current rent receipt in a parent or guardian’s name;
— Current utility bill in a parent or guardian’s name;
— Verification of all income for the entire household;
— Medicare cards for everyone in the home.
Families in Dougherty, Lee, Worth, Terrell, Baker, Calhoun and Mitchell counties can go through the Salvation Army office in Albany. The Salvation Army offices in Sumter and Thomas counties are handing registration for their respective counties.
Nationwide, there have been 494 million toys distributed to 230 million children to date through Toys for Tots. For a complete listing of drop-off sites, or additional information on how to donate, visit albany-ga.toysfortots.org.
Smith can be reached at (229) 733-1184. The Salvation Army office in Albany can be reached at (229) 435-1428.