Toys for Tots preps Christmas gifts for underprivileged kids of Aiken County
The local Toys for Tots is preparing to give Santa Claus a run for his money this year as the foundation plans to give out Christmas presents to hundreds of children in Aiken County.
Toys for Tots of Aiken County, a branch of the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Program, collects new, unwrapped toys or gifts during the months of October, November and December each year. The donated gifts are then sorted by age and sex, and once all the gifts are organized – they will be distributed as Christmas gifts to needy children within the community.
“We provide toys for underprivileged kids residing in Aiken County,” said Lane Parker, coordinator for Toys for Tots in Aiken County. “What we do is make sure these kids have at least a little something under the tree on Christmas morning.”
In order for a child to receive one of these special gifts, the child’s parents or guardians must sign them up by registering with Toys for Tots before Dec. 14, Parker said.
“I want people to know it’s not too late to sign children up, but they need to come to our warehouse to make sure they make it on the list,” Parker said.
The Toys for Tots headquarters in Aiken County is located in a warehouse at 2301 South Centennial Drive.
Parker, who has coordinated Toys for Tots in Aiken County for 16 years, said volunteers offering their own time will make up personalized gifts for around 1,500 local children just this year.
“We truly get amazing volunteers each year,” Parker said. “It would not be possible to make this thing happen every year without the wonderful people who donate their time and energy to ensure all these kids get their presents on time.”
Donated items for the children can be dropped off at any one of the nearly 200 participating locations in Aiken County, with over 100 sites located in the City of Aiken and around 80 in North Augusta, Parker said.
Local businesses can still become a drop-off point by calling Parker at 803-644-8300.
Any of the official drop-off sites will have a large Toys for Tots box to collect donated items. However, time is running out with only about two weeks left for people to donate, leading Parker to suggest donations be dropped off directly at the main warehouse, making the process simpler for everyone involved.
Individuals interested in donating their items directly to the warehouse should first call 803-522-0478 to ensure someone is present at the site before arriving, Parker said.
On Dec. 6, all gifts donated through the Savannah River Site will be transported in one large haul to the warehouse.
Dec. 14 is the last day donations will be accepted by Toys for Tots, with the gifts scheduled to start being picked up on Dec. 17 and Dec. 18.
Each person who signed-up to have a gift given to a local child will be given appointment cards with a pick-up date and time specified for each individual.
“We try to keep the process as organized as possible by indicating a specific date and time appointed to each person who signs up, which is designed to keep everyone from showing up all at once,” Parker said. “Upon arrival, each person should present their appointment card to a volunteer, their gift will be located, brought out and loaded up.”
The sign-up sheets also have a “wish list” section to be filled out, where specific items can be listed for a child needing or wanting those items.
“We will do our best to gift the kids with items listed on their wish list,” he said. “Our goal is to put a smile on each child’s face and making them feel good when they receive something special on Christmas day.”
Toys for Tots in Aiken County is still in need of volunteers to help sort toys for gifting, Parker said.
Parker is also asking for more donated items specifically for older kids, boys and girls, between the ages of 9 and 12.
“Usually, older kids no longer want a doll or a toy to play with, they get to an age where their focus is more on having a nice appearance and good hygiene,” Parker said. “We also see older kids getting interested in technology and gaming.”
A few items that would make good gifts for older children are “grooming products” like shampoo, soap, shaving kits, hair gel, curling irons and make-up – just to name a few. Older boys also tend to enjoy video games, movies, music and sports equipment.
Parker also wants to remind everyone that Toys for Tots does not want any “wrapped gifts” left in the donation boxes; volunteers need to be able to see each item in order to sort it properly.
For more information or to donate, volunteer or sign-up call 803-644-8300, or visit aiken-sc.toysfortots.org.