Toys For Tots drive begins next week

The Marine Corps League Griswold Mountain Detachment 1121 of Oakhurst is gearing up for this year’s Toys For Tots drive, which gets underway next week.

For the second year, Dennis Osantowski, a four-year veteran of the Marine Corps, is coordinating the drive, providing toys through 14 schools, five churches, Manna House, and six agencies including Head Start, the Oakhurst Counseling Center, and the Boys & Girls Club.

Over the past 11 years, the Griswold Mountain Detachment has collected more than $400,000 in toys and cash contributions for the children of the Mountain Area. Last year they provided 4,000 toys, valued at $60,000, to 1,900 children in need in Eastern Madera County.

“Every dollar and every toy we receive supports Toys for Tots children in our Mountain Area,” Osantowski emphasized.

“I feel getting involved with the Toys for Tots is really one of the greatest things I can do for the community,” Osantowski said. “This Christmas toy drive campaign is one of the major opportunities for the community to come together and help the children in need of the Mountain Area. I'm looking forward to working with everyone in the area and the continued support this community has shown in the past for another successful campaign.”

Plans for a number of special events and promotions are being finalized for this year’s drive including:

*  The Queen’s Inn/Idle Hour winery is running a special promotion during the holiday season. Details: (559) 683-4354.

*  Sullivan’s Tire Pros will make a donation for every tire sold between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Details: (559) 683-5999.

*  True Value Home Home Center in Oakhurst will again hold their kick-off weekend 9 a.m. - 4 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 21, with their “Toy for Toy” event where a toy brought in or purchased at the store, will be matched with a second toy from True Value. Marine Corps volunteers will be at the store.

*  The Toys for Tots Annual Toy Round-Up, will be held 9 a.m. - 3 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 5, at the Old Mill Shopping Center (Vons). Two of the drive’s sponsors, Cal Fire, and the Yosemite High Cheer team will be at the event to help the Marines accept community donations. The Cheer team will hold a bake sale with all proceeds going to Toys for Tots.

In addition to Idle Hour Winery and Sullivan’s Tire Pros, major sponsors for the toy drive this year are Cal Fire, the Madera County Fire Department, Madera County Sheriff's Department, Mountain Bear Fan Club, Northland Communications, Oakhurst Shopping Center (Eric Wilkins), Sierra Star, Sierra Tel, Take Off Pounds Sensibly (TOPS), Sunrise Rotary Club, True Value Home Centers in Oakhurst and Yosemite Lakes Park, Yosemite Brokerage, Yosemite High Cheer squad, and 41-49 Property Management.

Once the toy drive begins, collection bins will be placed in more than 70 businesses, churches, and schools in Raymond, Coarsegold, O’Neals, Yosemite Lakes Park, North Fork, Bass Lake, Fish Camp, and Oakhurst.

“For the many volunteers who make Toys For Tots possible year after year, Toys For Tots embodies the true spirit of Christmas,” Osantowski said. “The gift of a shiny new toy - something that most children take for granted - means to a needy child that someone cares, that he or she has not been forgotten, that Christmas has not passed him or her by.”

Donations can also be made online at, or make checks out to Toys for Tots, and mail c/o Dennis Osantowski, 43051 Long Hollow Dr., Coarsegold, Calif., 93614.

Details: Dennis Osantowski, (970) 209-2099.