Toys for Tots

June Neumann gathers toys to be given away for Christmas to needy children at the Toys for Tots warehouse in Oxford. Photo by Stephen Gross / The Anniston Star

OXFORD Judy Woods waded through stacks of toys Thursday to find and package the ones a child on her list wanted.

It was the first time the Eastaboga woman had volunteered to help with the Marine Corps’ annual Toys for Tots program. Within a few hours of volunteering, she decided to continue helping the program for years to come.

“I’m loving it,” Woods said of helping the Toys for Tots program. “It’s about helping the less fortunate … that’s what we’re supposed to do.”

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Woods was one of more than a dozen volunteers and area Marine Corps League members busily arranging and packing toys in Oxford today for the annual Toys for Tots giveaway for needy Calhoun County and Talladega County children. The giveaway is set to start at 9 a.m. Saturday at the Marine Corps League’s Toys for Tots building at 5837 U.S. 78 in Oxford.

The majority of toys will be set aside for families who applied for the program earlier in the year. However, there will be toys available for parents who come at the last minute, said Dave Grise, assistant coordinator for the program.

“We do have latecomers who come in and we try to accommodate them,” Grise said. “It’s our philosophy that every child deserves a toy.”

Grise said that this year, the program has about 5,000 toys and nearly 250 bicycles for around 1,800 children in Calhoun and Talladega. Each registered child gets seven toys, plus seven stocking stuffers. All of the toys are either donated or bought with donated money, Grise said.

“The community really comes together and gives us a lot,” Grise said. “Normally when we ask the community for something, most of the time we get it.”

Grise said volunteers would work from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. today, then come back and work the same hours again Friday to make sure all the toys were ready for the giveaway.

“It’s in your heart; it’s something that you feel,” Grise said of why he and others continue to help the program each year. “And there’s also the privilege at the end of it, knowing that kids are going to wake up on Christmas morning with something to open.”

Melodie Smith, senior vice commandant of the Marine Corps League, said she’s been helping with Toys for Tots for the last eight years.

“I’m retired and everything I do now is either for veterans or kids,” Smith said with a smile.

Staff writer Patrick McCreless: 256-235-3561. On Twitter @PMcCreless_Star.

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