As they have done year after year, residents and businesses of the Mountain Area opened their hearts and wallets to provide toys for less fortunate children under the tree on Christmas morning. The donations provided for 1,120 children with nearly 3,900 new toys valued close to $50,000.
The 2017 Toys for Tots campaign for Eastern Madera County was orchestrated by the Marine Corps League Griswold Mountain Detachment 1121 with Dennis Osantowski serving as coordinator for the fourth year.
The Mountain Area Toys for Tots drive is 16 years old. The first year, 300 children were served with $5,000 worth of toys. Over the past 16 years, the Griswold Mountain Detachment has collected nearly $700,000 in toys and cash contributions for the children of Eastern Madera County.
All the toys collected were separated by gender and age to ensure the right presents went to the right child. On average, each child received three presents plus stocking stuffers.
“I’m grateful for everyone who made donations of toys, cash and checks during the toy drive,” Osantowski said. “We experienced an outpouring of compassion from the entire Mountain Area. This is what Toys for Tots means. It would not have been possible without the dedication of all the volunteers, and the giving nature of area residents, businesses, and organizations and we greatly appreciate every donor. Every dollar and every toy collected in Eastern Madera County stays in the Mountain Area to help children and families in need.”
The annual Toy Round-Up, the largest event of the season for the Griswold Mountain Detachment, was held Dec. 2 in the parking lot of the Old Mill Village Shopping Center adjacent to the Oakhurst post office. According to Osantowski, detachment volunteers collected nearly 400 toys and $1,700 in cash donations during the six-hour event.
The detachment was assisted by Madera County Fire Department Station 12 (Oakhurst) and Cal Fire’s Bass Lake stations. The California Highway Patrol and Madera County Search and Rescue provided vehicles for the education and awareness of area residents and their children. Barry Beeson brought his WW II era restored jeep and the Road Rattlers Car Club had many vintage and restored vehicles for the enjoyment of young and old alike.
In addition to the Toy Round-Up, other special events were held during the 2017 campaign including a mini-Round-Up in the Coarsegold Historic Village, a wine tasting at Idle Hour Winery, a toy-for-toy drive at True Value Home Center, a Christmas Boutique held by the Christ Church Women and a donation of money raised at the annual Christmas Tree Auction by the Rotary Club.
Major 2017 sponsors who made donations or collected toys included the Coarsegold, Bass Lake, Raymond and Oakhurst post offices, CVS Pharmacy, Ducey’s Restaurant, Slim’s Koffee Shack, Sun Mountain Gun Club, Oakhurst Family Chiropractic, Sullivan’s Tire Pros, Dr. Rodney Peter DDS, VFW Post 8743, Raley’s and Grocery Outlet, Road Rattlers Car Club and the Coarsegold Chamber of Commerce.
Others included Oakhurst Feed Store, Mountain Bear Fan Club, Advanced Auto Care, Allstate Insurance, Coarsegold Car Care, Wild Fig Kitchen, YLP Clubhouse and Pro Shop, Quality Auto Care, Bank of America, Wells Fargo Bank, Yosemite Bank, United Security Bank, Golden 1 Credit Union, Oakhurst Shopping Center (), the Sierra Star, Sierra Tel, Yosemite Mortgage and 41-49 Property Management.
Toys for Tots began in 1947, when Major Bill Hendricks, with support from members of his Los Angeles Marine Corps Reserve unit, collected and distributed toys to needy children. The next year the Marine Corps officially adopted and expanded the program nationwide. Since then, the program has grown to 759 communities covering all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, collecting and distributing over 500 million toys to bring Christmas to children who might not have shared this joy.