Toys for Tots – Celebrating 75 Years of Bringing Smiles to Children’s Faces

There truly is nothing like seeing the holidays through the eyes of a child with a new toy. Unfortunately, not all children have families that can afford a wanted toy. Since 1947, Toys for Tots, has collected new, unwrapped toys and distributed them to children whose parents are unable to afford Christmas gifts. The non-profit organization, operated and directed by Marines and the Winston-Salem Chapter that includes Forsyth County, is once again working to make this Christmas the best ever for local children!

Simple Beginnings

Toys for Tots began in 1947 when Marine Corps Reserve Major Bill Hendricks was asked by his wife, Diane, to deliver handcrafted dolls she made to an agency that helped children in need. When Maj. Hendricks could not find any organization, they decided to create one. Within the first year, they donated 5,000 toys to children in need all over Los Angeles, where the Hendricks lived at the time.

The Need is Great

The USMC League Detachment #1075 is active year-round, not just during the holiday season. Rev. Victoria Reid, volunteer coordinator and technology support, said, “The local chapter members speak at local events, participate in parades, attend community functions and much more. The Toys for Tots program runs actively October through December at its peak season. From January to September, our Marines work to keep current support and relationships strong while building new partnerships, support and raising awareness each year.”

Leadership and Community Support

For the last three years, Marine Tony Bricca, has been the coordinator of the local campaign Chapter of the Toys for Tots Program. Previously, Flow Automotive has made huge impacts in the program’s growth by supplying an operations location. Because the program has grown so much, Toys for Tots received the support from Novant Health. The program collects toys in the white bins placed with local businesses and partners, like Flow, Novant Health, Reynolds America, Carolina Thunderbirds, Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office and Winston-Salem Police Department to mention a few, and also receives news coverage from WXII. The toys are then brought to the operations center; sorting by age begins and then volunteers receive the applications with toy request, put families’ requests together and plan pick-up times for approved applicants to come and get their toys. But, this plan was put to the test during the pandemic of 2020.

“The need for support of children in our community didn’t change during the pandemic; if anything, it drastically increased. Tony Bricca, my dad, had one goal in 2020: to continue the mission of Toys for Tots. As Marines, the understanding of adapt, improvise and overcome is part of the foundational lessons all Marines learn. During this time, the core group of leaders looked to their families for ideas and support to continue the toy drive. We needed to distribute the toys and keep everyone safe. My dad looked to my mom, Faye, and me for help, and I presented him a plan to do all we needed to do and stay within the safety requirements in place. Last year, we distributed 54,180 toys to more than 28,000 children,” Rev. Reid commented.

“In our area, the community support for Toys for Tots is like no other. Not only do businesses support us by collecting toys, we have support from some of our college and high school athletic coaches, families, friends, groups, high school students and more. We also do our best to shop local to make a positive impact on our local area,” stated Rev. Reid.

The Volunteers and Their Families Make the Difference

“We would not be thriving if it was not for the support of our friends and families. Our next coordinator, Jeff Williams, who plans to step into the role in 2023, looks forward to his vision and passion as the next coordinator. We have a solid group in place and have come so far with Jerry Johnson as administrative coordinator and Rick Schweikert, our operations coordinator. We are one of the few programs in the country with three generations of volunteers present in helping: Kelly Anders, Leanne Anders, Cherrie Williams, Lewis Pleasants and Pat York are a dynamite team of women who help with phones, organizing pick-up times, toy sorting and more. Faye Bricca, myself and my children also help in monumental ways. Then, we have a phenomenal group of spouses and close friends who step up every day in more ways than we can count. We look forward to the years to come of helping local families and children have a very Merry Christmas,” Rev. Reid said.

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