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How you can help the Toys for Tots drive

The words “Christmas morning” often call to mind scenes of children rushing toward a festive tree bedecked with baubles and lights to find a pile of presents awaiting their questing fingers but this is an experience that many youngsters would miss out on, if not for the efforts of the U.S. Marine Corps.

For the past 75 years, the Marine Corps Reserve has been bringing the joy of Christmas to families all across America with its Toys for Tots program, born in 1947 and formalized with its very own supporting nonprofit entity, the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation, in 1991. Each October, Marine Corps members both past and present join forces to collect as many new, unwrapped toys as they possibly can, all of which are then given to youth in need.

“The mission of the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation is to assist the U.S. Marine Corps in providing a tangible sign of hope to economically disadvantaged children at Christmas,” the national organization’s website details. “Presently, the Marine Toys for Tots Program distributes an average of 18 million toys to 7 million less fortunate children annually.”

Here in the Pahrump Valley, the Toys for Tots Program is headed by the Marine Corps League Detachment #1199, with veteran Mike Elam at the helm as coordinator. As Elam remarked, the goal of Toys for Tots may seem a simple thing but the feelings created by those gifts can have a lasting impact.

“I joined the Marine detachment here about 3-plus years ago and we’ve had this going on here in the local community for at least the last 15 years,” Elam detailed. “I got involved because I just thought it was a good way to volunteer and give back to the community, to kids all over Nye County, from here in Pahrump and Amargosa to Beatty and Goldfield. And I’ve had people come in and tell me, ‘When I grew up, Toys for Tots made a difference for me,’ and they want to pay it forward. It’s really special to be able to do something like that.”

For the 2021 effort, the local Marine Corps League was able to distribute a total of 8,825 toys to 2,941 children and he is hopeful that the group will be able to surpass that amount this year. “It’s the 75th anniversary of Toys for Tots this year and we want to just keep it growing!” Elam enthused.

He noted that the area that it seems hardest to get donations for is teens ages 13 to 17, both boys and girls.

“We get lots of donations for younger kids, which is wonderful because we need it all, but it’s those donations for the older kids that can be difficult because it can be hard to shop for them,” Elam said, adding that cash donations are useful for this as they are regularly put toward purchasing gifts for teenagers.

Elam was quick to stress that the Marine Corps Toys for Tots model calls for a community-based approach and therefore, 100% of cash donation and all of the toys collected by the local Marine Corps League will be kept for local communities to directly benefit children throughout Nye County.

With the holiday looming, the Marine Corps League Detachment #1199 is preparing for its final push of the 2022 season, with a collective drive scheduled for Dec. 17. Marines Corps members will be out at Walmart from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. this Saturday and Elam is encouraging residents to head out and offer their support.

“We expect to have Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus with us and people can donate either toys or cash, whatever they prefer,” Elam said. “And we just want to give a quick shout-out to Nevada Outreach for working with us to distribute the toys to families that need them, as well as the VFW Riders and the Artesia Community Center, both of which give us large toy donations every year. And also to Walmart, which is a corporate sponsor for the Toys for Tots program, they are great!”

In addition to the collection drive on Saturday, there are approximately 75 of the easy-to-spot Toys for Tots collection boxes located in businesses around town. Toys can also be dropped off at the Marine Corps League Detachment #1199’s office at 150 S. Highway 160, Suite 14, in the Albertsons shopping center.

Monetary donations can be made online at Pahrump-NV.ToysforTots.org

For more information on the local Toys for Tots program contact Elam at 775-537-5630.

Contact reporter Robin Hebrock at rhebrock@pvtimes.com

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