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Toys for Tots ensures local children have Christmas gifts

Spread the Christmas spirit by donating locally

Toys for Tots ensures local children have Christmas gifts

That is why Aimee Staten, director of Cobre Valley Youth Club, has taken over as coordinator of Toys for Tots for Gila County this year. The program has provided gifts for children at the local Salvation Army, the Youth Club and individual families for several years under the direction of Greg St. Hilaire of Safford. This year, St. Hilaire decided he was ready to spend more time traveling and visiting his grandchildren. This means he must retire from all counties except his own. He presently runs Toys for Tots for Graham, Greenlee and Gila counties.

The Youth Club has been the pass-through for gifts for its members for several years, and Staten has been personally thanked by parents whose children were otherwise not going to receive much for Christmas.

“I tell them: it wasn’t me! It was toys donated to Toys for Tots by people in the community,” she said.

Large gift boxes have been stationed at the entrances of Walmart and Bealls Outlet, and donation jars are at the cash registers of numerous local businesses. “When you’re shopping for your families in November, please remember there are local children who, through no fault of their own, may not get gifts this year,” Staten said. “This is an excellent program to teach children about empathy and compassion for others!”

The Toys for Tots program began in 1947 when Major Bill Hendricks’ wife, Diane, crafted a homemade Raggedy Ann-type doll and asked her husband to donate it to a worthy organization that would see it was presented to a needy child for Christmas. After not being able to locate such an agency, Diane suggested Bill start his own. That year, Hendricks and his Marine Reserve Unit collected and distributed roughly 5,000 toys to needy children in Los Angeles. Toys for Tots program was created. It has grown since then, and last year the program gave toys to more than 7 million children.

Last year, the Toys for Tots program gave away more than 2,000 toys to children in Gila County. The gifts are tailored to each child from a questionnaire parents or guardians fill out when they sign up a child.

The Toys for Tots program is a top-rated charity with roughly 97 percent of monetary donations used to provide toys, books and other gifts to children with only about 3 percent used for administrative and fundraising costs. Locally, all donations are used to provide toys to the children because volunteers pay for their own gas to travel around the different counties gathering and distributing toy and money collection boxes and jars.

For those who wish to put a child on the list to receive gifts, a parent or guardian can sign up residents of Gila County at the Cobre Valley Youth Club, 1435 S. Hagen Rd., in Globe from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. throughout November. A person only needs photo identification to sign up a child; no proof of income is required. 

For more information or to donate, Gila County residents can call Aimee at 928-651-1781 or email her at aimeejstaten@gmail.com.

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