Toys for Tots has big year

Published 7:29 pm Saturday, January 5, 2013

The annual Toys for Tots campaign has again brought joy to thousands of needy Suffolk children at Christmas, and organizers have thanked the community for helping make it a success.

“It seems it was an outstanding year as far as toy collections,” said John Woleben, Suffolk coordinator for the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve campaign.

The Suffolk community in general dug deep, he said, and the business community helped with some significant donations of toys and cash used to purchase toys in bulk.

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Woleben gave special mention to “the competition between the auto dealers.” Duke Automotive, Beach Ford and Starr Motors tried to outdo each other in toy and cash donations, he said.

“We got literally over 1,600 toys there,” he said. “There were three boxes delivered to Duke” after collections officially finished. “They are going to keep them for next year.”

Woleben also cited Lockheed Martin in North Suffolk, whose more than 100 workers gave the campaign a major boost by donating 25 bicycles and accessories as well as a check for $1,500.

He also mentioned a $5,000 contribution from John C. Holland Enterprises. “It’s just been a great year,” he said. “The toy collections were outstanding, and the donations were outstanding also.”

A large percentage of the money raised for the campaign in Suffolk comes from the Suffolk News-Herald’s Cheer Fund, which by the end of 2012 had accumulated $28,665, down a few thousand dollars from the $32,921 collected at the same juncture last year.

Local attorney Frank Rawls, a Cheer Fund board member, noted that this season’s target is $40,000.

“It appears that the continuing weak economy has hurt our efforts this year,” Rawls said. “Hopefully those who have given in the past but did not give this year will reconsider and give” before the campaign closes at the end of January.

Nearly all of the monetary donations to the Cheer Fund benefit the children, Rawls added. “We have to pay $50 (annually) to the State Corporation Commission to keep our charter, and I think that is the only expense.”

Woleben reported “great appreciation for what we do” from recipients, rattling off one anecdote:

“One lady picked up toys for her children and the helper at the toy store was walking to the car with her and a friend asked when was she going to have her baby, and she said, ‘In a couple of weeks.’

“The toy store helper offered some additional toys for the baby-to-come … and she went back in and selected a couple more toys.

“Those kinds of stories are really heart-warming. It’s what it’s all about.”

Cheer Fund donations received through the end of January go toward meeting this year’s goal, which funds the purchase of toys for next year’s distribution. If you’d like to help, just 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.