Lincoln County, Mo. - If one were to walk into any of the local shops in Lincoln County, he or she will see the familiar white and red donation box for “Toys For Tots.”
It has become an annual tradition, not just in the county, but nationwide.
Inside the basement of Geeding Trucking in Troy, boxes stacked to the ceiling are filled with toys ready to be distributed to the county’s less fortunate children during the holiday season.
Lincoln County Toys For Tots Coordinator Debbie Brown said Geeding Trucking is allowing her and Lincoln County Marine Detachment 1405 to use the basement for as long as they need to fulfill their goals.
“The Geedings have done so much for us,” Brown said. “They’re very nice people.”
The U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys For Tots program collects new, unwrapped toys, starting on Oct. 1, and running through December in coordinated territories across the nation. In Lincoln County, all donations, toys and monetary, are only collected in the county, stays in the county and the toys are distributed only to children in the county.
“At least 97% of every dollar that’s donated to us is spent on toys,” said Toys For Tots Assistant Coordinator Chuck Calvert. “The orders are gender and age-specific, and the toys are gender and age-specific.”
Brown said due to strict parameters set by the Marine Corps Toys For Tots Foundation, she has to account for all funds donated and spent on a regular basis. Also, she has worked with local shops and vendors to get the best possible toys at the best prices.
“I buy toys all year-round,” said Brown, who has been coordinator since 2016. “I try to get the best deals on toys.”
Though Lincoln County Toys For Tots has consistently ranked in the top-three in the country, 2020 was a down year for the organization because of the novel coronavirus pandemic, as well as other factors, according to Brown.
“Last year, we were down,” she said. “If it weren’t for the Foundation, I wouldn’t have been able to help anyone.
“I’m not sure if it was the economy, or something else, but the need is there.”
Members of the Lincoln County Marines have been accepting cash and toy donations throughout the area through their outdoor Friday fundraising drives at the intersections of the county.
The final one for the year will be in Elsberry on Dec. 3.
“I have been involved since the formation of the detachment in 2013, working on the poker runs, standing in front of Kroger (in Troy) in all kinds of weather. Even had my Newfoundland dog Odie with me a couple of years,” said Hugh Nisbet, Lincoln County Marines adjutant/paymaster. “ He was quite a draw for younger children. It was very rewarding, especially watching the kids with Odie.”
In addition to donations, Lincoln County Toys For Tots is also looking for volunteers to help distribute toys and help at the basement at Geeding Trucking. For more information, contact Brown at (636) 295-8741, or go to troy-mo.toysfortots.org.
“Nothing goes unnoticed from me. I appreciate everything the community has done, because we have an awesome community,” Brown said.
Toys can be dropped up at various drop sites in the county, including Geeding Trucking and The Lincoln County Journal.