PETTYVILLE - After two months of collections, the local Toys for Tots distribution took place Saturday at Grace Gospel Church.
Staff Sgt. Cliff Hecker, the local coordinator for Toys for Tots, said the local collection was down but they were able to fill the early requests and half of those on a waiting list.
"We had a really big push on Friday and we are only down by abut 10 percent," he said. "We had 80 families on a waiting list and we were able to take care of 41 so far. We'll do what we can because we hate to say no, but we will do what we can."
Photos by Jeffrey Saulton
Amy Long, a Toys for Tots volunteer, places a stuffed bear in a gift bag.
Hecker said while the collection was down they were pleased with what they received.
"What we lacked in quantity was made up for in quality. We got a lot of good things, the quality has been outstanding," he said, adding an auction planned for Saturday afternoon at Parkersburg High School may help fill the remaining names on the list.
Hecker said there were some surprises as they collected gifts Friday.
Toys collected for the Toys for Tots program were distributed Saturday at Grace Gospel Church in Pettyville.
Early requests to the program were filled as were about half of those on a waiting list.
A group of 38 volunteers sorted the toys on Friday night to get them ready for distribution.
"We had two older ladies who told us they were on a limited income but they put aside money and bought something every month to give us," he said. "They did it all year and gave us 13 bicycles, they bought two this month."
On Friday night 38 volunteers gathered in the church gymnasium to fill up the bags of toys to be distributed. Hecker said the scene Friday was one of "organized chaos" but they were able to get several bags filled with six to eight toys.
"We sort the toys by gender and age to make sure we get the appropriate gifts for each child," he said. "Each time someone comes to pick up a bag, the runners are given a card with the child's age and sex and they go pick a bag from that group. The rest of the time they fill additional bags."
Hecker said at times they receive items that are not appropriate.
"Sometime we get clothes, food and other things," he said. "We call other agencies and ask them if they can use the items. We get a few used toys that we can't give out."
At one time Hecker said the program included used toys but that has changed as the program has grown.
"When Toys for Tots began used toys were included and Marine reservists took care of cleaning and refurbishing the toys, but today there are so many we just don't have the time," he said. "There are also some liability issues with used toys."
Amy Long, of Parkersburg, was one of the volunteers. She got involved after being asked by a friend who had volunteered.
"I've been doing this for four or five years," she said. "It's a good thing to do. It was a lot of work to sort out the toys but putting them in the bags and giving them away is a lot of fun."
Susan Marlow, of Mineral Wells, was at the distribution Saturday to pick up some toys for a relative's children. She said the program is a big help for area families.
"It's a good thing they do for area children and families," she said. "I was helped by them in the past and it is a good thing."
A Parkersburg resident who did not wish to be identified said she picked up toys for her son.
"There are a lot of families who can't afford the toys and this helps to us out," she said. "It's good they can do this for the children."
Hecker said he believes in doing what can be done for children.
"I can't imagine how a child must feel when there is nothing for them," he said. "When they are older they might remember this and they may help out as a way to give back. I've been part of this for 15 years and if one helps out, it will be worth it."