SUMMIT, NJ — For 15 years, the Summit police and fire departments have been collecting trucks, dolls and various other toys for the U.S. Marine Corps Toys for Tots program. And each year, the number of items donated increases.
“The first time we did it, we only collected a couple of toys during the span of one day which fit into a pickup truck,” said Summit police Lt. Rick Proctor, who organizes the project. “Now, we collect toys during a month-long period, which fill a full-sized rented U-Haul truck.”
The police and fire departments began collecting Christmas toys for the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve of Metuchen in 2002. The toys are distributed to underprivileged children throughout Union County.
“We have such an appreciation to residents of Summit who come out full force and always support it,” Proctor told LocalSource on Nov. 21.
The police and fire departments will be collecting unwrapped new toys until the morning of Dec. 15, which is the last day to make deliveries to the Marine Corps, Proctor said.
Collection bins are dispersed throughout the city at the following locations: Summit Police Department Headquarters at 512 Springfield Ave.; Summit Fire Department Headquarters at 396 Broad St.; Summit post office at 61 Maple St.; Starbucks at 2 Beechwood Road; Lakeland Bank at 510 Morris Ave.; Peapack-Gladstone Bank at 48 Deforest Ave., and Wells Fargo Bank at 1 Maple St.
Proctor stressed the importance of donating unwrapped toys, saying that the Marine Corps look at the donations to determine which children will receive them.
The program was created in 1947 when Maj. William Hendricks, assisted by members of his Marine Corps Reserve Unit, collected 5,000 toys and distributed them to war orphans and other children in Los Angeles, Calif., according to the Toys for Tots 2016 annual report.
The first drive was so successful that the commandant of the Marine Corps directed every reserve unit to conduct a local Toys for Tots campaign the following year.
This year marks the 70th anniversary of the program, whose mission — according to its website — is to collect toys between October and December and distribute them as gifts children in need during the holidays.
Toys for Tots grew to become a foundation with a board, fundraising and support organization within the Marine Corps in 1991, according to the organization’s website. According to the Toys for Tots annual report, in 2016, the Marine Corps reported that soldiers and volunteers distributed 18 million toys to 7 million children in campaigns conducted in 792 communities that included all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Virgin Islands.