Finding joy through toys

Jennifer Heger

In 1947, a woman named Diane Hendricks handcrafted a Raggedy Ann doll and asked her husband, U.S. Marine Corps Reserves Major Bill Hendricks, to bring the toy to an organization that would give it to a needy child at Christmas. After determining that no such organization existed, Major Hendricks decided to start his own, and Toys for Tots was born.

The mission of the Toys for Tots Foundation is to collect new, unwrapped toys during the Christmas season each year and distribute these toys as gifts to needy children. Its goals are to help these children experience the joy of Christmas, to play an active role in the development of the nation’s children, to unite all members of a community in a common cause during the holidays and to contribute to the formation of better communities in the future.

Local campaigns are conducted in nearly 400 communities, which cover every state, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Collection begins in October and ends on Dec. 22, with distribution taking place on Dec. 23 and 24. Social welfare agencies, churches and other community groups assist in identifying the children in need and in delivering the toys.

In addition to the toy collection, local coordinators also organize activities such as golf tournaments, bicycle races and other voluntary events that generate interest in the Toys for Tots Foundation, as well as monetary and toy donations.

To donate toys, just look for drop boxes in local business or go to to receive further information.

Another organization that promotes generosity at Christmas is the Salvation Army, founded in 1878 in England. From the bell ringers dressed as Santa Claus standing in front of the mall to the thrift stores that provide low-cost items for those in need, the Salvation Army works to fulfill its mission of meeting human needs without discrimination. Last year alone, the Salvation Army gave holiday assistance to nearly 6 million people, in addition to the 30 million who received aid the rest of the year.

All donations made to the Salvation Army are tax deductible. Items particularly needed during Christmas are clothing, household items and appliances and toys, games and sporting goods. Although your donation will not be delivered directly to a child in need, it will be brought to a thrift store, where a little boy or girl will be able to purchase it at a very low price.

The closest Salvation Army store is located in Norristown, and several additional stores are located in Philadelphia. To contact the Salvation Army for pick-up of your items or to find out a drop-off location, call 1-800-95-TRUCK, or go to

So this month, while you’re trying to figure out what gifts to buy for your friends and family, consider the fact that there are millions of children across the country who don’t receive anything for Christmas. Contact one of these organizations and let these children know the happiness of a truly merry Christmas.