Want to donate?
Boxes for Toys for Tots donations are set up around the county in many pharmacies, library branches and community centers. Those wishing to donate money rather than gifts can send checks payable to “Toys for Tots” to Wally Calderon, the Hall County coordinator for the program, at 5083 Marsh Creek Court, Braselton, GA 30517. Families who want to receive donations can fill out a form at www.toysfortots.org.
Growing up as one of six children, Wally Calderon knew all about hand-me-downs and had his share of meager Christmases. Today, as the local coordinator for the national Toys for Tots program, he gets to ensure a holiday with new presents under the Christmas tree for countless Hall County children.
This year, Calderon said, donations are pouring in at record levels.
"I don't think we will have any problems in Hall County as far as toy collection goes," he said. "But I don't want to make it sound like people should stop giving."
Calderon said he is receiving enough donations per day for about 30 families. Last year at this time, that number was closer to five.
At an Oak Street warehouse Wednesday, volunteers wearing red and white "Toys for Tots" sweatshirts sorted through crates of Matchbox cars and puzzles.
While gifts for older kids are accepted, the program takes the "tots" part seriously and focuses primarily on children under age 12.
At Sosebee and Britt Orthodontics offices in Gainesville and Oakwood, where the staff put out donation boxes, some patients have come back more than once to drop off toys, said employee Renee Pass.
A few years ago, the staff there helped one mother who was out of work cross off the gifts on her family's Christmas wish list. This holiday season that mother was again in the office and pulled out her checkbook to pass the gift forward.
"When she saw what we were doing, she wrote us a check and asked to go buy gifts," Pass said.
Since its inception in 1947, the U.S. Marine's Toys for Tots program has donated more than 400 million toys to 188 million children in need. Families who sign up for the program can receive two gifts and one stocking stuffer per child.
In Hall County, donation boxes are set up at more than 125 locations from libraries to grocery stores.
Every gift donated locally will stay in the county, Calderon said.
"There is need here just like there is in Atlanta, this year especially," he said. "People donate from here and they like to hear that the toys are going to stay here for the people in need."
The fact that the gifts stay in the county was a big part of why the staff at Sosebee and Britt Orthodontics decided to sponsor the program, said Pass. She estimated that nearly 100 toys have been donated.
"I'll be able to have a little brighter Christmas Day knowing that there will be some happier children in Hall County because of what we did," she said.