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Spreading Smiles, Cheer: Toys For Tots Distribution
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A line of cars stretches out in front of Cardozo Middle School in a bit of midday fog on Saturday, Dec. 19. They were waiting their turn as Riverbank volunteers for Toys For Tots were distributing toys and other holiday goodies for needy families. The event was scheduled to run from noon until 4 p.m. Ric McGinnis/The News

There was a holiday hustle and bustle in front of Cardozo Middle School at midday on Saturday, Dec. 19 as the local Toys For Tots organization distributed items that had been donated during its earlier collection campaign.

Cars lined up the road on Santa Fe Street beginning at midday, shrouded in a bit of late fog which continued to burn off as the day wore on. Recipients were scheduled to make their socially distanced pick up between noon and 4 p.m. on Saturday.

Organizer Darlene Barber-Martinez said there were 21 volunteers, from Valley Improvement Projects, Casa del Rio, the Riverbank Language Academy and Central Valley Community Resources, and including members of Riverbank’s Boy Scout Troop 1100. She said Santa Claus even made a trip down from the North Pole to help supervise and give toys away.

She said they served about 133 families this year through the effort.

Toys for Tots is a program run by the United States Marine Corps Reserve, which typically tries to collect and distribute toys to children whose parents may not be able to afford to buy them gifts for Christmas. The program was founded in 1947 by reservist Major Bill Hendricks.

Since that time, the non-profit 501c3 organization has spread across the country and has had an active presence in Riverbank and other Central Valley communities for the past several years.

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Even Santa Claus was on hand at Saturday’s distribution of toys and other goodies to needy families as part of the Toys For Tots local campaign. Recipients were lining up in front of Cardozo Middle School, ready for the drive-by event, forced by COVID restrictions this year. Here, Santa loads a bicycle for a lucky youngster time. Ric McGinnis/The News