El Dorado Hills firefighters are making room for Oscar the Grouch, Barbie and Transformers at Station 85 as the annual Toys for Tots campaign has arrived.
Everyone is invited to drop off a new, unwrapped toy (or toys) in the Toys for Tots boxes set up at 40 locations, including fire stations, Town Center businesses and local real estate offices, throughout El Dorado Hills, Rescue and Cameron Park, as well as other communities to the east.
For more than 10 years the El Dorado Hills Firefighters Association has spearheaded the Toys for Tots effort on El Dorado County’s western end. Hangtown Detachment 697 of the Marine Corps League in Placerville covers communities closer to the county seat.
Major Bill Hendricks, USCR, founded Toys for Tots in 1947, according to the foundation’s website. That year Hendricks and a group of Marine Reservists in Los Angeles collected and distributed 5,000 toys. Since then, Marines have distributed more than 452 million toys to more than 209 million needy children.
EDH firefighter/paramedic Chris Landry has coordinated the firefighters association’s efforts for four years and said last year generous El Dorado County residents donated 12,728 toys for 3,158 local children.
“This is a great way to reach out and help,” Landry said.
In today’s economy more people need assistance, he added, and in communities like El Dorado Hills it’s easy to forget that some parents don’t have the means to buy presents. That’s where Toys for Tots steps up. Families can register to receive toys at any county elementary or middle school; their child does not have to attend the school.
Firefighters association volunteers will empty Toys for Tots boxes as needed (picking them all up during the week of Dec. 10) and take all the dolls, puzzles, board games and action figures back to Station 85. Landry reminds donors not to give DVDs or video games, as they never know what technology the child has access to; Toys for Tots also does not accept bicycles.
Last year Landry remembers toys filling a large part of the engine bays “up to here,” he said drawing a line above his head. Volunteers separate the toys by age group and gender then they go up the hill for the big distribution event at Indian Creek Elementary School in Placerville, Dec. 15 and 16.
Landry called distribution day “controlled chaos.” “It’s exhausting but it’s awesome, too.”
Volunteers from numerous community groups show up to prepackage toys and hand them out to grateful families. Wanting to instill that spirit of community service into younger generations, Landry brought his sons to the event last year. “They loved it,” he said, adding that the boys definitely plan to come back.