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Christina Stock Photo Toys for Tots 2019 distribution was in person. Due to COVID-19, this will not be possible this year. However, the Moses D. Rocha Marine Corps League found a way to get the toys to the children in town, but the league needs help from the public.

Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record

Toys for Tots program needs volunteers

By Christina Stock

Vision Editor

The annual Toys for Tots event of the Marine Corps Reserve has been in the hands of the veterans, members of the Moses D. Rocha Marine Corps League Detachment No. 1287 (MDRMCL). This year, they are facing a bigger challenge than most years, due to its members having to be careful of COVID-19. Most members are older, and/or are having a compromised immune system due to their service.

In a phone interview, Marine Corps League member Dawn Hartwell said, “We need volunteers for counting and sorting toys, as well as bagging the toys up for distribution. We will not be able to stand in front of Walmart this year due to the pandemic. We are going to try to take some limited monetary donations and/or toys (new) at Westlake.”

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According to Hartwell, those who are interested in helping the league and the children of Roswell can find the form on its website. Registration of children has kicked off and will be only online.The distribution will not take place as usual either.

“We will contact each parent and/or guardian, give them a date and a time to come by the facility and pick up the toys for their children. Each family’s toys will be bagged up according to the registration and then that parent or guardian will be contacted with a date or a time as to when they can come by to pick them up,” Hartwell said.

This is going to be a huge undertaking, Hartwell knows. In a much smaller format they had done this concept last year for the communities outside of Roswell. “Last year, Dexter Fire Department helped us out with part of the distribution for Dexter, Hagerman and Lake Arthur, and I will tell you, I did have volunteers from the American Legion that helped me, but it was still a huge undertaking to go through basically a pick list for each family and pick out the toys and bag them up. And then make sure that they stayed together for that family. Then I had to load them in a trailer for the Dexter Fire Department and they hauled them down. That went all flawlessly, Dexter Fire Department didn’t have one issue at all. People came in with their identification and the identification needed for each child and presented it to the Fire Department and then they were handed off their bags. So we know that it does work, but Roswell is a much bigger area.

“It is is going to be crucial for the community to step up and help us out as much as they can. We know that we are going to have a lot more children this year than we had in the past, due to people not having their jobs and/or limited jobs. We know that the numbers are going to increase. Last year, we distributed 5,418 toys including stocking stuffers and books to 1,330 kids. I am sure this number is going to increase exponentially. As of date, we have 46 families with 156 children registered so far, and it’s just the beginning. Registration is currently open online, same website information and it’s online registration only. We are not going to do anything in person.”

Registration closes at midnight on Nov. 28 for parents or guardians online.

“We have to have time to get this done,” Hartwell said. “We’ve set aside the week of Dec. 5 through 12 for distribution, so we give ourselves time to do this. I know we were one of the few (leagues) that did distribution the way we have. We let kids come in, let them pick out toys, they were escorted in. Most campaigns were already doing it by appointment, so that the parent and guardian would come by and pick up the toys, and used town halls and city halls to stage the toys to be picked up. It is not an unusual thing, but it is for us. We have no choice, and it is sad. We are all sad about the situation because we so enjoyed the way we did do distribution. We loved seeing the kids and their reactions and just all the happy faces that left with toys in hand.

“That was our gift back for all the hard work we put in and countless hours and sacrifices of our own family time that made it all worth it, because we could see what our efforts were all about. This year, it’s just not going to be that way,” Hartwell said.

Asked about support from the league’s national headquarter, Hartwell said, “We are starting out with nothing. We are getting a supplemental shipment from national, but I can tell you now, it’s not much. But they do the best they can, they have the entire United States to try and help out. And we are a smaller city, it goes by the size of the campaign and they go off the records that we had before.

“It’s going to be a tough year. It’s been a tough year for everybody anyhow and so this isn’t any different. But we are striving to get at least one toy into each kid’s hands this year because that’s what the Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots is all about, is providing hope with a new toy,” Hartwell said.

To make it easier on people and businesses who want to donate, Hartwell said that the program is working together with the wholesale company HDI. The link will be on the league’s website.

“if people want to purchase from home, they can check out what HDI has to offer and they will get wholesale prices,” Hartwell said. “As far as Walmart or Target goes, to purchase toys there, people can do that. I know some campaigns are setting up wishlists, but that is another huge undertaking, because that requires one of us to go through to create a listing and how many toys we want and not knowing how many kids we’re going to have, that makes it a little difficult. My suggestion would be, if they wish to purchase something there, contact us at the 575- 347-1915 or email Alan Hartwell at roswell.nm@toysfortots.org. We will make every effort to help you with arrangements. If we have to go by Walmart every day and pick up, then that’s what we are going to do. We are not going to turn down any donation.

“We do understand that some of the public is scared to go shopping and would rather do the shopping online. Just reach out to us and let us know what you intend to do and we’ll make arrangements to accommodate you,” Hartwell said.

According to Hartwell, the children that are receiving the toys often do not qualify for other organizations for one reason or another. They are falling through the cracks.

“We do not require any kind of financial information whatsoever, we never have,” she said. “Some other campaigns do, that’s what they base it on to make sure that the child is definitely in need, but Roswell has never done that. We don’t discriminate against anyone, we take each and any registration. The only thing we ever turn down is a duplicate registration. We only need the ID for them and the ID for their children (to compare it with the registration.)

When you register on the website, you’ll receive an email telling you you have been accepted and/or rejected and why. Then they’ll also get an email telling them the date, the time and what information they need to bring with them.

“Donations stay here in the community, and when they make the donation through Roswell and they can even make a monetary donation on our website, but they need to indicate that it’s for Roswell, New Mexico and it will ask them that. As long as they indicate that it goes to Roswell, New Mexico, that’s where the funding goes, straight into our account and then we can go and purchase what we need. We have online vendors and we always buy from locals,” Hartwell said.

For more information, visit roswell-nm.toysfortots.org.

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