On Monday morning, Linsey Rosen, a United Way volunteer, shuffled through stacks of Barbie dolls, stuffed animals and board games looking for a Monster High Doll — one of the items on a local child’s Christmas wish list.
After finding the doll, Rosen placed it in a bag, along with other gifts that will be distributed to a local family later this week.
More than 1,000 children from 524 families will be receiving gifts this Christmas thanks to the annual Toys for Tots toy drive, said Christian Levitsky, office manager at United Way of Santa Rosa County.
In Santa Rosa County, 120 boxes were set up at 76 locations to collect the toys, said Kristen Loera, director of coastal development. “We’re bringing the message of hope,” she said.
The toy drive typically distributes to anywhere between 900 and 1,300 children in Santa Rosa. This year, about 30 volunteers helped pull together the toy drive.
For Rosen, this was her first year volunteering, but she said it has been a great way to get involved in the community. She volunteered about eight hours a day, four days a week, for the weeks leading up to the distribution of toys.
“I like it; it’s interesting,” she said.
After collecting the boxes from each dropoff location, volunteers sorted the toys, then worked from the wish lists children filled out.
“We try to get items as close to the children’s wish list,” Rosen said.
The U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots program started in 1947 when Maj. Bill Hendricks and a group of Marine Reservists collected and distributed 5,000 toys to needy children in Los Angeles.
According to the Toys for Tots website, www.toysfortots.org, the first toy given was a handmade doll.
The mission of the program is to help less fortunate children throughout the United States experience the joy of Christmas and unite all members of local communities in a common cause, according to their website.
Last year, Toys for Tots distributed almost 16 million toys to more than 7 million children in the United States.