The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

December 6, 2012

Mike Pound: Toys for Tots spread Christmas excitement

By Mike Pound

— If you’re lucky, you’ve probably had the same feelings of guilt that I tend to get this time of year.

If you’re lucky, you’ve probably reviewed your Christmas shopping list and wondered not whether you’ve done enough for your friends and family, but whether you’ve done too much.

Way too much.

The reason you wonder if you’ve done too much is because you’re lucky enough to be in the position to do too much. You know that for many folks, wondering if they’ve done too much for their friends and family isn’t an issue. For many folks, the issue is if they will be able to do anything at all for friends and families.

I didn’t grow up in an affluent household, but we were comfortable and we never had to worry about not getting gifts for Christmas. But, with seven kids, it’s fair to say that my parents never went overboard. I never got a pony, for example, but when I was in sixth grade I did get one of those electronic, vibrating football games.

Remember those?

It came with a metal football field and little plastic football men. What you did was spend 20 minutes setting up the offensive football players so they would run a complicated play and then you spent 20 minutes setting up the defensive football players in a complicated defensive scheme to thwart the complicated offensive play. Then you turned the game on and the field shook and the players would all begin to move. Normally what would happen is the players would get hooked up together and spin around in circles until it was time for supper.

I loved that game and I still remember how excited I was when I got it for Christmas. That feeling is one all kids should know at least once in their life. People such as Paula Mitchell understand that excited feeling and work very hard to see to it that as many children as possible get a chance to experience that feeling.

I wrote about Paula a couple of weeks ago. Paula is the assistant coordinator for the Jasper/Newton County chapter of the U.S. Marines Toys for Tots program. This is the fourth year the organization has been operating in Jasper and Newton counties. Paula said last year that Toys for Tots handed out 6,000 new toys to kids and teenagers in the area.

I think that’s something.

The thing is the local Toys for Tots group operates on a shoestring budget, mainly getting by on help from generous folks in the area who share a desire to help out kids who might otherwise be forgotten at Christmas. I think one of the reasons folks like to help out Toys for Tots is because they know that all the money donated to the organization is only used for toys. The only way money can be used for expenses such as wrapping paper, tape, batteries or gas money for volunteers who use their own cars collecting toys is if the donor specifically designates that money be used for something other than toys.

The most important need right now is toys, Paula said. To that end the organization has scheduled three toy drives on Saturday. Volunteers will staff toy collection sites at three Walgreens Drug Stores at various times during the day.

From 9 a.m. until noon, volunteers will be at the store at 2001 S. Range Line Road; from noon until 3 p.m., they will be at the store at 2001 S. Main St.; and from 3 to at least 6 p.m., they will be at the store at 1605 W. Seventh St.

The volunteers will be accepting new, unwrapped toys for infants all the way up to 18-year-olds. They will also accept cash donations and donated wrapping paper, batteries and tape.

If you can, think about dropping by one of the stores Saturday and giving a kid a shot at that excited Christmas feeling. Who knows, if you do, you might even share in that feeling.