Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

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January 8, 2013

Toys For Tots program doubled amount of giving over last year

JACKSONVILLE — A local campaign to provide Christmas toys for local children in need was twice as successful in 2012 than the previous year, according to the Cherokee County Toys for Tots organizer Stephen Hutson.

This year, 1,054 youths from Cherokee and Anderson Counties were recipients of the program, compared to 554 children in 2011, Hutson said.

“This was really neat – I was like, 'Wow!' This year, we are in the black, so we plan to hit stores having sales so we can purchase toys as we get ready for next Christmas. At this point, we've got about 200 toys so far” that will be the seeds for the 2013 campaign, Hutson said.

Businesses have been generous about giving discounts to the organization to help funds stretch further, and “when we are toy shopping, people come up and hand us money (when they learn) we're shopping for Toys for Tots. It's a neat deal, because it's community helping community.”

The Toys for Tots program was founded in 1947 in Los Angeles by Marine Corps reservist William Hendricks and has grown to a national average distribution of 13 million toys annually given to an estimated 5.8 million children in need.

Hutson, vice commandant of Marine Corps League Detachment #1381, which sponsors the program in Cherokee County, said that toys collected locally are distributed locally. Donated funds are used for supplies and additional toy purchase.

During the 2012 campaign, 1,744 toys were donated, along with 437 books and 894 stocking stuffers, and an additional 626 toys, 124 books and 266 stocking stuffers were purchased using funds, according to Hutson. The national foundation donated an additional 832 toys.

Of the $6,539 in funds collected locally, more than half – $3,473.67 – was donated by Texas State Railroad employees from the Rusk and Palestine depots, who pooled together tips during a Polar Express program sponsored at the site, Hutson said.

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