Time is running out – will Santa be visiting Greenbrier Valley this year?

By Peggy Mackenzie

The Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots toy drive in Greenbrier County has only a couple of weeks to go before the deadline to donate is reached. The applications from elegible needy children are coming in, says Rainelle Medical Center (RMC) Events Coordinator Mary Surbaugh. However, the donations this year are a little underwhelming. While volunteers are enthusiastic and committed, the public perception seems to be that the recipients are limited to the western end. “This is a county-wide program,” Surbaugh said, “and not just for the children in the western end.”

Of the approximately 5,000 elementary school-aged children in Greenbrier County, roughly 3,000 are on the free or reduced lunch program, an indication of a downward economic trend which affects us all but especially those with tight budgets. Fifty-six percent of Lewisburg’s student population, Surbaugh said, qualify for the free or reduced lunch program, an indication the need for support is widespread.

“I am hoping that every child in Greenbrier County gets a toy for Christmas,” Surbaugh said. “But it depends on the generosity of the public.”

The Marine’s Toys for Tots drive, which first started back in 1947, is a traditional Christmas giving program that has benefited less fortunate children all over the nation. Over its life span, the program has distributed over 469 million toys to over 216 million less fortunate children. The primary goal of Toys for Tots is to deliver, through a new toy at Christmas, a message of hope to less fortunate youngsters that will assist them in becoming responsible, productive, patriotic citizens.

On a local level, the Marine Corps Reserve, along with the Rainelle Medical Center, has for years partnered with The Greenbrier’s Create a Dream Tree to distribute toys to the many Greenbrier County children who may otherwise not have presents under the tree. Over the years, the Marines have established close working relationships with social welfare agencies, churches and other local community agencies which are well qualified to identify the needy children in the community and play important roles in the distribution of the toys.

The local toy collection campaign, which began in October, will last until mid-to-late December when the toy distribution takes place. Members of the community are encouraged to drop new, unwrapped toys in collection boxes positioned in local businesses. Suitable toys for the under age 12 set are items like balls, dolls, stuffed animals, bikes, fishing poles, board games, sleds and the like. Suggested gifts for middle school-aged children are sporting equipment/bags/balls; books, backpacks, cosmetics, purses, watch/wallet gift sets, bath gift sets, radio control cars/trucks, hand-held electronics, skateboards/helmets, curling irons, hair straighteners, and hair dryers.

Volunteer coordinators pick up these toys and store them with the 811th Ordinance Company at the Army Reserve Center in Rainelle where the toys are sorted by age and gender. About a week before Christmas, volunteers, with the assistance of local social welfare agencies, church groups, and other local community agencies, distribute the toys to the less fortunate children of the community.

While Toys for Tots coordinators organize, coordinate and manage the campaign, the ultimate success depends on the support of the local community and the generosity of the people who donate toys.

The easiest way to show your generosity and support is to look for the Toys for Tots donation boxes at the following retail stores: Magic Mart in Fairlea and Rainelle, Kmart, Wal-Mart, and Ruby Tuesdays in Lewisburg, Dollar General in Lewisburg, Rainelle, and White Sulphur Springs, and at CVS in Fairlea. A donation box is also located at the Public Service Department office #2 in Rainelle.

All donations accepted in Greenbrier County are distributed in the county, Surbaugh says. Monetary donations can also be accepted through the official Marine Corps website at toysfortots.org.

For those who received a letter with an invitation,Toys For Tots distribution times for the western end of Greenbrier County will be at the 811th U.S. Army Reserve Center in Rainelle on Tuesday, Dec. 16, and Wednesday, Dec. 17, from 3-7 p.m., and from 3-6 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 18.

For the eastern end of Greenbrier County, for those with a letter of invitation, the Toys for Tots distribution time will be Saturday, Dec. 20, all day from 9 a.m. – 6 p.m., at the National Guard Armory in Lewisburg.

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