By Mike Pound
Our 14-year-old daughter, Emma, doesn’t know what she wants for Christmas, and for that, I’m pretty sure she realizes she is lucky.
At least I hope she does.
Not knowing what you want for Christmas means you already have some stuff. Not knowing what you want for Christmas also assumes that you know that you are going to get something for Christmas. It would be nice to be able to say that all kids know that, but being nice doesn’t make it so.
The sad fact is there are a lot of kids who aren’t sure that they will get anything for Christmas. There are probably kids who have never received anything for Christmas and who go through life figuring that Christmas is for other kids and not for them.
Paula Mitchell is the assistant coordinator for the Jasper/Newton County chapter of the U.S. Marines Toys for Tots program, and she knows all too well the sad facts I just mentioned. This is the fourth year that Toys for Tots has existed in Jasper and Newton counties. Paula said that last year, the organization gave out 6,000 toys to area children and teenagers.
“And we’re looking for the need to be as great if not greater this year,” she said.
Toys for Tots was launched in Los Angeles in 1947, when Marine Maj. Bill Hendricks and a group of fellow reservists gathered and donated 5,000 toys to needy children. The drive began after Bill’s wife, Diane, made a doll and asked him to get it to an agency that would see that a child got it for Christmas. When Bill discovered that no such agency existed, Diane suggested that he start one, and 65 years later, Toys for Tots is stronger than ever.
Paula said her organization has placed Toys for Tots donation boxes at Toys R Us, Wal-Mart, Walgreens and Dollar General stores in the area. Folks who would like to help can do so. While shopping, you can pick up a toy, pay for it, and on the way out drop it into the donation box. Or, you can send a monetary donation to Toys for Tots at 532 S. Ozark Ave., Joplin, MO 64801.
Paula said Jasper/Newton County Toys for Tots is teaming up with Mission Joplin, the outreach agency with Forest Park Baptist Church, to help identify kids in need of help this year. She said Toys for Tots also accepts requests for donations over the phone.
“Many people see the donation boxes and call the number on the boxes to ask how to sign up,” she said. “Our requirement is that they have a need, and the children have to live in the home.”
It would be nice to say that everyone who asks for help from Toys for Tots really needs that help, or that people, after getting help, don’t turn to another agency for even more help. But Paula knows that isn’t always the case.
So, sure, there might be the occasional jerk out there working the system, but Paula said she is willing to put up with the occasional jerk if that means helping thousands of deserving children.
“We want the kids that need help to be taken care of,” she said.
Paula asks that the toys dropped in the donation boxes be new and unwrapped. Toys for Tots, she said, is looking for toys for infants all the way up to 18-year-olds.
“Teenagers are our hardest age,” she said. “So we are asking for people to donate items they think a teen would like.”
If you would like more information about Toys for Tots or would like to sign up for assistance, you may call 417-291-6594.
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