Clay County Toys for Tots is preparing for the Christmas season and their annual toy drive.
The organization recently sent out letters to area businesses and churches, asking for permission to place donation boxes or money canisters inside for the public to use. The organization will empty the boxes as needed, and collect everything by Dec. 10, in order to prepare for distribution, which will take place Dec. 22.
According to their website, the mission of the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Program is to collect new, unwrapped toys during October, November and December each year, and distribute those toys as Christmas gifts to needy children in the community in which the campaign is conducted.
The goal is to deliver, through the new toys, messages of hope to needy children to motivate them to grow into responsible, productive, patriotic citizens and community leaders.
Janet Elliot, chairperson for Clay County Toys for Tots, has been heading the local Toys for Tots for the past 12 years.
According to Elliot, the organization distributes an average of 250-300 gifts to children in Clay County.
Parents in need can fill out applications to receive clothes, food baskets or toys. Toys for Tots is for children 12-and-younger, but parents with older children can be adopted by a church or family to help with Christmas gifts.
Clay County Toys for Tots will send out post cards to each receiving family, giving them a time to pick up their toys at the distribution center. The toys will be organized by age group in the distribution center, located in the fellowship hall of Harmony United Methodist Church. While there, parents can choose what gifts they think their children will enjoy. Families can also pick up books, stocking stuffers, hats and mittens for the children. Elliot said she also likes to give the families a cake mix, icing and candles for birthdays.
Many volunteers assist during the distribution of the toys, and they agreed helping during distribution is a moving experience, especially when seeing the parents' faces when receiving help from the community.
"Our area has been hit harder than a lot of areas close to us, by loss of jobs or income" volunteer Rita Jones said. "Toys for Tots helps families celebrate Christmas with something, it gives them hope and lets them know other people care about them and their children."
Those involved in Clay County Toys for Tots have been planning the toy drive for months, but say the hard work is rewarding in the end.
"You volunteer your time -- starting in September -- the reward is knowing what the kids will get, but seeing those parents cry when they get the gifts is rewarding," Jones said. "That's what we take from it."
To help the volunteers, Papa John's, Subway and Casey's General Store have all donated food in the past for the event.
Restaurants aren't the only ones involved in the cause. Dr. Julie Shaw of Shaw Chiropractic has a toy drive the first Friday of December -- Dec. 7, from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. She has been hosting the toy drive for the past 14 years. Patients are asked to bring in toys for the drive, located at 78 Forest Park Plaza.
"They gather a huge amount," Elliot said of Shaw Chiropractic. "They are tremendous."
Shaw said patients could bring in a toy donation in exchange for their payment that day.
"Everybody needs a little help at some point," Shaw said. "It's part of why we were put in Clay County, not just to help with chiropractics, but to help during the Christmas season -- a time of giving, and we want to be able to give as well."
Also, an auction will take place at 16 W. National Ave., in the old Murphy Building, on Nov. 2, at 6 p.m. Many local businesses are donating items for the auction, and baked goods will also be available to purchase. According to Coordinator Tim Conners, 100 percent of the proceeds from the auction will go to Clay County Toys for Tots.
Anyone wishing to donate to the cause can drop a toy off at participating locations.
Cash or check donations can be mailed to PO Box 183, Harmony, Ind., 47853. Checks should be made payable to Harmony United Methodist Church with "Toys for Tots" in the memo section. For more information, contact Susanne Mathis at 442-1914.