Toys for Tots seeking gifts, donations amid tough economic times

Published: Dec. 11, 2020 at 10:16 AM CST|Updated: Dec. 11, 2020 at 3:41 PM CST
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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) -- Amid these tough times, Marines and volunteers are facing unprecedented challenges in making this holiday season special for families in need. With so many out of work during the economic downturn, the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation is tasked with delivering gifts to even more children this year.

Each Christmas, the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation puts smiles on millions of children’s faces. But this year is especially difficult amid the pandemic, as Marines and volunteers in some communities see a large increase in the need for gifts, while donations are down.

“We thought we were going to have to turn families away to even receive one toy, and the amount the community has come out over the last two weeks and put their heart and soul into making it what it has been in the past is just been incredible,” said Captain Alexander Coffiey, coordinator for Roanoke’s Toys for Tots program.

The request for toys in the Roanoke Valley is six times higher than last year. Captain Alex Coffiey says the community and donors have stepped up so each child on their Christmas list can open at least three toys. Typically, the area serves about 700 to 750 kids in need, and this year, a staggering 4,000 kids were in need of presents.

“Parents are out of work, their houses are being foreclosed on – there’s not going to be a lot of other toys for a lot of these families,” said Coffiey.

Despite all the struggles, Commandant for the Marine Corps League - Roanoke Detachment 426, Mike Shepherd, says all these hours at Santa’s workshop are worth it.

“It can get rather emotional for a lot of us…you have people that break down in tears crying because they can’t afford to do what we’re doing,” said Mike Shepherd, Commandant for the Marine Corps League.

Retired Colonel Ted Silvester says you can’t underestimate the Marines’ resolve to accomplishing any mission.

“96 cents of every donated dollar goes into buying toys and putting them in the hands of children, so as an organization, as a program run by the Marine Corps, who knows how to do more with less than Marines, right?” joked Col. Ted Silvester (Ret.) Marine Toys for Tots Foundation vice president of marketing and development.

If you’d like to make a donation, please visit to find out how you can make an impact in your community.

The deadline to turn in these gifts varies from center to center, so you can double-check that information online. All gifts must be unwrapped. Organizers say this year, there’s especially a need for presents for older children.

If you miss the cut-off for your community to drop off presents, you can also make a cash donation online. The foundation can put the online donations toward completing payments on gifts through January.

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