By Brenda Maguire
PLAINVILLE — For most people, Toyland is a made-up place seen on television or heard in songs at Christmas time. But in Plainville, Toyland can be found in the U.S. Naval and Marine Corps Reserves’ recreational gym during the months of November and December.
Since 1947, the U.S. Marine Corps has been running the Toys for Tots campaign to help provide children of low-income families with toys at Christmas.
“It’s not just the fact that they’re getting a toy, it’s a sign of hope,” said Staff Sgt. Leonard Tardiff. “As far as they know Santa brought that toy.”
Local Marines are hoping to collect 75,000 toys this year, a figure much higher than last year’s total of 51,000.
Last year, not every request for toys could be filled because of the lack of donations, which Tardiff believes can be blamed on the economy. Of the 51,000 toys from last year, only 37,000 were donated.
Most toy requests come from individual families, but requests also come from groups such as churches and school districts.
In the past, toys have also been distributed to other toy drives run by the Boys’ and Girls’ Club, the State Department for Foster Care and the witness protection program.
Currently, requests for toys are scheduled to be conducted between Nov. 20 and 27. Tardiff predicts that the campaign will receive over 500 requests in that time.
Toys for Tots prefers to receive donated toys, but also accepts monetary donations, which will go towards purchasing toys.
There is a group of about 12 volunteers who come back every year, along with other volunteers to help pick up toys from drop off boxes, sort through toys and prepare toys for pick up by families. Additional volunteers are also being accepted.
Families will pick up the toys at the Reserve located at 1 Linsley Drive in Plainville.
“Most of the families are very grateful. Some of them are in tears,” Tardiff said.
Toys can be dropped off at Copart Inc in New Britain or in Bristol at the following locations: Diamantis and Associates, J.F.C. Endeavors, Inc., Physical Therapy Center of Bristol and Yankee Harley Davidson.
Other drop-off sites include BMG, Progressive Insurance and T-Mobile in Newington and Johnson Brunetti, Woodside Therapeutic in Wethersfield. In Rocky Hill toys can be dropped off at Kids at Heart and Town Line Laundromat. The Days Inn in Southington will also act as a drop off site.
At the end of December, the Marines will host an open house where low income families can pick up any toys that might be left over after the campaign. The date for this event has yet to be decided. Tardiff compared the event to Black Friday, with lines of people waiting sometimes up to eight hours to enter the building to receive their toys.
To make a donation, request toys, become a volunteer or for more information visit http://plainville-ct.toysfortots.org/local-coordinator-sites/lco-sites/default.asp.