PARKERSBURG - An estimated 25,000 toys will be given away today through the annual Mid-Ohio Valley Toys for Tots toy drive through the U.S. Marine Corps.
Staff Sgt. Cliff Hecker, the event's coordinator for the last 17 years, said the local Toys for Tots program held its first collection drive on Nov. 5- the same day as the national Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Campaign kickoff- and its last of the season Friday at the Blennerhassett Hotel in downtown Parkersburg.
Over the past month and a half volunteers have conducted various collection drives like Friday's event at the Blennerhassett and there were also many drop-off locations throughout the Mid-Ohio Valley.
Photo by Wayne Towner
Diane Heckert, right, with Yellow Taxi in Parkersburg, drops off enough toys to fill a taxi Friday afternoon at the Blennerhassett Hotel for the Mid-Ohio Valley Toys for Tots drive. Beginning in January, Heckert buys a few toys each week for the annual toy drive, which finished Friday.
"All of the drop-off points are being picked up now," Hecker said Friday afternoon, adding he planned to drive around to each location to pick up any last-minute donations.
"I'm sure we will have a few left over and I always get extra kids" who need gifts, he said.
Hecker said donations experience up-and down-cycles and this year's collections were slower than some earlier years. While collections started in early November, Hecker said the pace of donations was slower than usual until the Thanksgiving holiday when things started picking up.
"It just seems the way Christmas fell, falling in the middle of the week, it had an impact. It just seems like although we have the same number of days, the timespan and weekends and things like that, it has felt shorter to us," he said.
The final collection drive on Friday saw people dropping off donations in front of the Blennerhassett Hotel throughout the morning and afternoon, including the annual donation made by Yellow Taxi and its owners, the Heckert family.
Diane Heckert, with Yellow Taxi, begins each January purchasing a few items each week and storing them for the annual toy drive, her son Brian Heckert said Friday. The Heckerts donated around 1,000 toys- enough to fill a mini-van taxi- to the toy drive Friday afternoon on behalf of Yellow Taxi and the Heckert family, he said.
"It's just her little way of giving back to the community and teaching the grandkids what the holiday spirit is about and how to give," Brian Heckert said of his mother's annual efforts.
Toys for Tots also collected monetary donations throughout the toy drive this season. Hecker said donated money is used primarily to buy toys for some age groups that don't receive as many donations as the others, particularly toddlers and early teens.
"We had a gentleman walk by (Friday) and ask 'Can I make a cash donation?' and then he dropped eight $100 bills in our jug," Hecker said.
After finishing the Blennerhassett Hotel collection Friday evening, Hecker said the volunteers would take a short break and then work until around midnight Friday and in the morning hours today to sort all of the donated toys.
The toys will be distributed to participating families from 9:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. at scheduled appointment times today at Grace Gospel Church in Pettyville, Hecker said. Families could sign up through the toy drive's website or were referred to Mid-Ohio Valley Toys for Tots by local agencies and organizations.
Hecker estimated about 90 percent of this year's applicants used the online option.
"We'll have probably 2,600 bags of toys going out," Hecker said of today's distribution, with each bag representing a child getting gifts, with another 400 children being assisted through various agencies.