Santa, some of his helper elves and a group of retirees representing the Marine Corps Reserves’ Toys for Tots campaign set up an outpost at the Crossroads Shopping Center during the day on Saturday, Nov. 23.
Passersby that day were encouraged to drop off unwrapped toys in bins on the sidewalk alongside SaveMart supermarket. They’ll be distributed to local needy families a few weeks before Christmas. Some donated money during the day, to be used to purchase appropriate toys for the Toys for Tots effort.
In the booth next to the Marines, several local non-profit organizations provided similar opportunities, especially for youngsters to communicate with Santa.
They included volunteers from Riverbank School District’s C.A.S.A. del Rio, Valley Improvement Projects and Central Valley Community Resources. Youngsters could sit on Santa’s lap and whisper ideas on what they wanted for Christmas in his ear, while others could take an opportunity to write letters to Santa, to be delivered to his North Pole address.
Gifts will be distributed on Saturday, Dec. 14, at Cardozo Middle School’s cafeteria from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Families must be Riverbank residents with guardianship of a child up to 12 years of age. Officials say the toys will only be released to the pre-registered party and they must be present on Dec. 14, with proof of residence with name and address. They suggest an ID or utility bill.
Donations are being collected at several business locations around town, as well as all Riverbank school sites.
The nationwide Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tops campaign has become an American holiday tradition.
Aimed at helping impoverished children, it began in 1947, when Major Bill Hendricks, with support from members of his Marine Corps Reserve unit in Los Angeles, collected and distributed 5,000 toys to needy families.
The program was so successful that, in 1948, the Marine Corps Reserve expanded the program across the country, and in the intervening years, the Corps has collected and distributed nearly 548-million toys.
And the program has enjoyed the support of an array of notable Americans.
Walt Disney designed the logo. Nat King Cole and Peggy Lee recorded the Toys for Tots song. Bob Hope, John Wayne, Brooke Shields, Johnny Carson, Garth Brooks, Tim Allen, Kenny Rogers and Billy Ray Cyrus are a few of the long list of celebrities who have donated their time and talents to promote Toys for Tots.
Former First Lady Barbara Bush served as honorary national chairperson in 1992, and in her biography, named Toys for Tots as one of her favorite charities.