Toys for Tots short nearly 1,800 gifts

Program leaders say they will work until all requests are filled

COLUMBIA, Mo. - With Christmas just days away, Mid-Missouri's Toys for Tots program still needs to raise $11,000 to fill the holiday needs of children.

The program, sponsored by the Marine Corps League, provides toys for needy families across central Missouri. This year, though, the program still needs to fill thousands of gift requests.

"We might have one child in the family that is 18 years old, but then you don't have anything for the infants or the 4-to-6 year olds," Columbia Region Coordinator Dannie Weddle said. "You can't fill a family's application until they have all of those."

There are 8,000 individual family applications requesting toys. Each child in the family receives his or her own age appropriate toy on top of one or two separate gifts fro the family.

The applications come from local agencies that work with children, counselors from area schools in touch with needy families, and the families themselves.

Around 15 volunteers pitch in to round up the toys from local drop-off locations and categorize individual items into an age group.

While the toy bins have been out in the community since October, the program still lacks proper funding to fill these applications.

"We just don't have enough," said Weddle.

He estimates around 1,800 children still need gifts in Mid-Missouri.

The local Marine Corps League funds a majority of the program through bingo concessions.

"Bingo has not turned a profit this year," Weddle said. "So that impacts the ability of the Marine Corps League to put large donations into the Toys for Tots program this year."

Weddle also says the economy has increased the need in assistance for families, as well as the lack of donations.

"A lot of people are out of work," he said. "They aren't able to do this, so they're coming to us for assistance. But mainly I think it's the economy affecting us and the lack of donations into organizations like this."

Despite the odds, Weddle says the program will complete its mission.

"Even if it comes up to Christmas Day and we don't have the toys, we will still keep going until all our applications are finished," he said.

If anyone is able to donate, the program is seeking monetary contributions. That way, volunteers can buy the age-specific gifts they need.

If the program earns a surplus of funds, that money stays in the local chapter and is used in the following year's offering.

To donate or to volunteer, contact Dannie Weddle at 573-808-3566.

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