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Toys for Tots campaign almost didn't happen

POSTED: December 8, 2008 5:00 a.m.
SARA GUEVARA/The Times

Miguel Cordero, a machine operator from Cleveland, sees what kind of toys can be donated in the Toys for Tots collection box at Northeast Georgia Surgical Associates.

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This year, Gail Detraz believes more local families will need a little help to have a merry Christmas.

Detraz, this year’s Hall County Toys for Tots coordinator, said she thinks because the economy has hit families so hard this year, Toys for Tots will be more important than ever.

And it almost didn’t happen.

The United Way, which is usually in charge of the program, lost an employee and did not have the funds to hire a replacement.

Detraz said when her Leadership Hall County class heard about United Way’s struggles, they thought they could help.

"The United Way was concerned that Toys for Tots was not going to happen this year because they didn’t have the manpower for it. So Leadership Hall County with the (Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce) stepped up to the plate and, as a class, we decided we would take up this endeavor for Toys for Tots," Detraz said.

Detraz volunteered to coordinate the program because in her line of work, she gets to see how hard it is for some families to make ends meet.

"I think I realized, particularly working in the medical profession, and seeing how difficult it is for people to pay for medical services, knowing how hard it is for them to have the extras, particularly Christmas for their kids," said Detraz, who works at Northeast Georgia Surgical Associates.

This year, Detraz hopes Toys for Tots can collect 6,000 toys for kids around the county.

"We would love to be able to supply toys to 2,000 kids. That’s roughly 6,000 toys, because we try to give each child at least three items in their holiday pack," Detraz said.

Detraz said she thinks people can afford to donate because the items Toys for Tots suggests are between $5 and $10.

"Barbie dolls are always popular. LEGOs are popular, board games," Detraz said. "If there’s a special interest of a child we do try to incorporate that."

And those who are unable to hit the toy stores can also donate cash.

"We’re definitely interested in contributions because where we fall short on toy donations, in the last week of our drive, we scurry out to do all the buying to fill in the voids where we need to make up the difference and serve all the children in the community," Detraz said.

New toys for children up to age 15 can be donated to collection sites around the county through Friday.

Toys for Tots was started in 1947 by Maj. Bill Hendricks, a Marine Corps reservist. Since that time, Toys for Tots has grown into nationwide effort by the United States Marine Corps to collect and distribute toys to needy children.



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