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Published 8:15 pm Saturday, December 11, 2010

Students at Nansemond-Suffolk Academy load a truck with the toys they had collected for Suffolk’s Toys for Tots program. NSA was just one of many Suffolk collection points for the program this year.

By Heather McGinley

Staff Writer

A variety of locations served as drop off sites for the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve’s Toys for Tots program this year, but all seem to share a common enthusiasm for helping families in need.

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Anytime Fitness, BASF, GTL Trucking and Sentara Obici Hospital were just a few of the businesses that served as drop locations, said John Woleben, coordinator for the Toys for Tots program in Suffolk.

A number of Suffolk schools also served as drop locations, including Creekside and John Yeates Elementary schools and Nansemond-Suffolk Academy.

Children from Nansemond-Suffolk Academy filled seven large Toys for Tots boxes and still had more toys to load into Woleben’s van Friday afternoon.

“The lower school students and middle school students came in every day and dropped off toys,” said Marlene Nierman, middle school administrative assistant at Nansemond-Suffolk Academy. “Kids really get in the spirit to provide for those less fortunate.”

Programs like Toys for Tots help NSA to accomplish its mission of teaching the whole child.

“They did it out of the goodness of their hearts,” Nierman said, adding the program gives students the opportunity to “be part of the community in a tangible way.”

Chris Lovette of Anytime Fitness was similarly enthusiastic to contribute to the community.

“All kids need to at least have a present on Christmas,” he said. “That’s the most important part.”

Anytime Fitness boasts around 2,000 members, many of whom are active or former military members and wanted to support the program sponsored by the Marine Corps Reserve.

Woleben had just begun picking up toys from drop-off locations on Friday. He delivers the toys to the Salvation Army’s warehouse, where they are stored until it is time for distribution. From there, toys are taken to the Toys for Tots “Toy Store,” where they are sorted according to age and gender.

The Salvation Army and Social Services will distribute some toys, while parents will pick up other toys from designated locations and from the toy store.

Toy distribution through the Toys for Tots organization and the Salvation Army is set to begin next week, but collections are still taking place all around the city.

And for those who wish to donate to help the cause, the Cheer Fund is still collecting monetary donations to support Toys for Tots in Suffolk. To contribute, send a check to Cheer Fund, P.O. Box 1220, Suffolk, VA 23434, or stop by the Suffolk News-Herald’s offices at 130 S. Saratoga St. For more information, call 539-3437.