When most residents are still setting up their Halloween decorations, or deciding on where Thanksgiving will be held this year, Gloucester County’s Marine Toys for Tots volunteers are already hard at work for the Christmas season.
The local Toys for Tots has been operating for more than 20 years for Gloucester County residents. Kevin and Shanin Baisch have been running the local campaign, located in Wenonah, for the last four years.
Toys for Tots chapters across the country are working to help less fortunate children throughout the United States experience the joy of Christmas by collecting new, unwrapped toys to distribute to kids.
Last year, the Baisches took a look at how things were working from the previous coordinator and decided it would be more beneficial to get the toys out into the community where people live instead of them having to come to the building.
“We found that it was making an additional hardship on the families,” Kevin said. “We had a lady come up and she was crying because she just took the last money she had to take Uber to get here so she can have toys for her kids for Christmas.”
That’s when Shanin and Kevin made the decision to work with all of the county’s municipalities to have the toys distributed directly to residents.
As a result, the group was named the top campaign out of its region of 150 different campaigns for 2018.
The campaign to request a toy has kicked off on Oct. 1 and will last until Oct. 31, which is a little earlier than for others. The early closing gives volunteers the opportunity to count, sort and package the toys, which will be done until right before Christmas.
From there, different townships come by with school buses and trucks to pick up the toys for residents. Then, municipalities decide on where and how to distribute the toys.
Last year, the group filled a whole school bus of toys for a town. In fact, in 2018, the group received a total of 118,000 toys and distributed them to 20,102 children. According to its website, Toys for Tots has distributed 566 million toys to 258 million children since 1947.
This year, the Gloucester County chapter has a goal to receive 150,000 toys and to service more than 25,000 children.
“So far, we’re on track,” Kevin said.
The group is making its first distribution on Nov. 18 to two townships.
For more information regarding donations, how to become a toy drop-off site or any other questions, residents can visit the Toys for Tots website at Toysfortots.org.
“We thank the good people of Gloucester County. Every year they come through for us and without them, we couldn’t do what we do,” said Kevin.