Businesses, clubs, and individuals once again opened their hearts and pocketbooks to provide Christmas toys for Mountain Area children this Christmas through Toys for Tots.
Thanks to generous donations and the relentless hard work of the Griswold Mountain Detachment 1121 Marine Corps League, the 2013 toy drive proved to be a big success. More than 4,200 toys, valued at $55,000, were distributed to nearly 1,400 children throughout Eastern Madera County, including 1,900 toys (valued at $25,000) delivered to Manna House for its Dec. 19, give-a-way.
Included in this year's drive was $12,000 worth of toys shipped to Oakhurst from the Toys for Toys Foundation national office. Those toys were purchased from funds donated on a national level. The Mountain Area drive was also supplemented with $4,000 in credit at the Clovis Toys R Us store. The credit comes from donations made at the store throughout the year in behalf of Toys for Tots, that are divided between Central Valley drives.
The Toys for Tots campaign began Nov. 12, and ran through Dec. 17, with 90 donation boxes at 75 locations throughout Raymond, O'Neals, North Fork, Coarsegold, Ahwahnee, Oakhurst, Bass Lake and Fish Camp.
"Each year, I get a little nervous at the start of the drive because the list of children in need continues to grow," said Mike Perreira, the Mountain Area coordinator for the Marine Corps Reserve program - along with his wife Brenda both members of the Marine Corps League. "But thanks to the generous residents and businesses of the area, we were once again able to get three toys to every child whose name was submitted to us."
Members of the collected the names of less fortunate boys and girls in Eastern Madera County from Manna House, 20 area churches, 26 traditional and alternative schools, the Boys & Girls Club of Oakhurst and five federal, state and county agencies.
"We collected more than $7,350 in toys and money in nine hours at our biggest event of the season, the toy round-up at the Old Mill Village shopping center on Dec. 14," Perreira said.
Perreira said 100% of the funds collected are used to purchase toys and basic supplies to run the campaign.
The driving force behind the event are 20 members of the Marine Corps League Griswold Detachment 1121 and their spouses who spend two months working on the toy drive distributing toy collection boxes, collecting toys and funds, attending all the special events and sorting and tagging all the donated and purchased toys to assure they are delivered to the right children depending on their age and gender.
Perreira, who along with his wife Brenda, have been involved with the Mountain Area drive for 13 years, the past eight as coordinators, estimated that during the past year, members of the detachment and spouses spent more than 2,300 volunteer hours for Toys for Tots.
"It's great that local business, clubs, organizations and individuals continue to be so supportive of the drive year after year," Perreira said. "Every year we have to give out more toys and we have been able to match our collections with the needs of the mountain communities. I can't thank everyone enough for their generosity during these tough economic times to help our neighbors at Christmas time."
Perreira said it's always great to see parents and their children donating toys at our events.
"The toy collection events are pretty special," Perreira said. "It's not just about children receiving toys ... you can see the children donating are getting a lot out of their act of giving. It's a joyful thing to see."
"I want to thank the sponsors including Madera County fire Department, Cal Fire, the Madera County Sheriff's office, 41/49 Property Management, the Sierra Star, Sierra Tel, 2Ts Storage and Suburban Propane for donating goods and services to assist our efforts," Perreira said. "A big thanks to Roger Schneider, owner of Yosemite Brokage, for providing a building for us to use as our North Pole / operations center during the drive."
Perreira also thanked T.O.P.S. (Take Off Pounds Sensibly), Sunrise Rotary Club and Susan Macaulay, VFW Post 8743, Yosemite High School Cheer and Pep Squads coached by Jennifer Lincoln, Theresa Bryant and True Value Home Center and Marie Mount of True Value YLP, Sullivan's TirePros, Queens Inn/Idle Hour Winery's Anna Marie dos Remedios and Deb Payne, Mountain Road Rattlers, Oakhurst Family Chiropractic, the "Decrepit Riders" motorcycle Club, Hair Care Plus, Northland Communications and Max Stauffer, owner of the Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad, Mountain Bear Fan Club, Society of the Sierras and Janet Franklin, Dr. Rodney Peters, D.D.S., Oakhurst Giftworks, and CVS Pharmacy.
Another significant contributor to the campaign were the students at Coarsegold Elementary School who contributed more than 75 toys.
Perreira made special note of the Yosemite High School Cheer and Pep squads, organized by Lincoln and assisted by Jennifer Mearse, who raised more than $1,300 from a bake sale and helped promote the Dec. 14 Old Mill Toy Round-Up. He was also touched by Brownie Troop No. 34041, a scouting group of 5 and 6-year-old girls that raised money to buy toys by collecting and recycling bottles and cans.
"All these businesses and organizations contributed a significant amount of toys and money towards the Toys for Tots drive this year," Perreira said. "I must thank most sincerely the men women and children who have purchased and brought us toys and donated money for us to make this campaign the success that it was. Because of this Mountain Area's generosity, we were able to donate an average of three quality toys to every child in need that was brought to our attention this Christmas. Toys for Tots embodies the true spirit of Christmas. The gift of a shiny, new toy something most children take for granted means to a needy child that someone cares, and he or she has not been forgotten at Christmas."