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Toy drive gets jump on holiday season

By Staff | Oct 19, 2009

Toys for Tots volunteers gathered at the Yacht Club on Saturday to kick off this year’s toy drive.
Volunteers were putting together boxes used for toy donations and setting their game plan for the 2009 holiday season.
Lee County Coordinator Judy Bowler said last year the non-profit collected more than 40,000 toys, all of which stay local.
“Everything stays locally,” Bowler said. “Every dollar, every toy.”
Founded in 1947, Toys for Tots is run by the United States Marne Corps Reserve.
Though no branch of the reserves exists in Lee County, the program is still made possible by the participation of local branch of the Marine Corps League.
Commandant George Colom said last year’s toy haul was impressive, but this year families will need even more help.
He’s been working with the program as a volunteer for seven years.
“Last year we were surprised at the outpouring from the community,” he said. “We collected more toys than I really thought we would.”
The local Toys for Tots works closely with the local branch of the Salvation Army, who uses their Christmas Cheer program to help distribute the toys.
Families who are approved for the program are able to visit one of the distribution centers and pick out toys for their children.
Yet, as successful as the toy drive was last year, and the years before, Toys for Tots still needs help.
They are looking for volunteers to distribute and pick up toy drop off boxes in Fort Myers and Lehigh Acres.
They’re looking to recruit people with vans or trucks.
“We’ve all been lucky, but there’s many out there who aren’t,” said Gary Bowler, assistant coordinator for the program. “We’re looking for people who are willing to take on just a little bit … we know everybody is busy, but the question is, do you want to give?”
Donation boxes are expected at area Walgreen’s, local retailers, and the Cape Coral Daily Breeze, to name a few.
For those interested in volunteering, contact Judy Bowler jbowlert4t@yahoo.com, or visit their Web site at Fort-Myers-Fl.ToysforTots.org.