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Local Toys for Tots’ 14th season a success

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The old building that used to house Factory 2-U, in a small strip mall on North Main Street, found new purpose on Dec. 19 as headquarters for the Toys for Tots distribution for Chaves County. Because of restrictions due to COVID-19, the event was held this year as a drive-thru.

Toys for Tots, a charity effort organized by the Marine Corps Reserve, has been in the U.S. since 1947, and in Chaves County for 14 years, where it is organized by members of the Moses D. Rocha Detachment No. 1287 of the Marine Corps League.

Valina Sanchez is an honorary member of the league named after her son, who was killed in action on Aug. 4, 2004. Ever since, Sanchez has been volunteering at the league and during the Toys for Tots distribution.

Asked what it means for her to be part of the program, Sanchez said, “It’s great, amazing that every year, we are able to get together and try to give to those who are in need. We still continue, even with the year we’ve had. We are still here to help all those children who are in need, to give them toys and so that they have a nice Christmas.”

Sanchez is not the only volunteer. League member Dawn Hartwell is in charge of registrations and double-checks that the families receive the correct amount of toys. She said that this year, Pioneer Bank employees, the Assisteens — a teen group that is part of the Assistance League — as well as the American Legion and family members have been helping.

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Retired Marine and Toys for Tots Coordinator Alan Hartwell said that this year, 197 families signed their children up.

“We have about 1,200 children that we are taking care of,” he said. “Our campaign is county-wide, so all the way down to Lake Arthur. Lake Arthur, Hagerman, Dexter, Midway, Roswell, all those communities in Chaves County are taken care of.”

At the beginning of the campaign the league worried whether they would have enough funds and toys, so no child would be left without one on Christmas. Fortunately, the community stepped up.

“We did manage to get enough donations this year,” Alan Hartwell said. “It worked out pretty good. In past years, we used to be able to stand out in front of the stores, and this year, we haven’t been able to because of the pandemic. However, we had a lot of organizations here in town that have stepped up to the plate, we had a lot of businesses stepping up to the plate and make donations. A lot of them donated toys, others simply made a monetary donation. That allowed us to put money in so we could purchase toys.

“Basically, we started with nothing — The Toys for Tots Foundation sent us a shipment to start out with. Between the community of Roswell and Chaves County, the businesses of Chaves County and the Toys for Tots Foundation, we were able to get enough toys together for the families that registered and to make it happen. We are filling the bill.”

Alan Hartwell is already thinking about next year’s children, hoping that then, the children can come in person to choose their own toys.

“Our age demographics went up this year,” he said. “Over the past years, out biggest demographic were 0 to 8 years, they have all grown up over the last three years, and so our demographic switched basically to 6 to 14. We are going to end up right in the middle; the younger group will move up and some of the older ones won’t move quite as far up yet. Our demographics will be somewhere in the middle, between 3 to 5 and 9 to 10 next year.”

For more information, email roswell.nm@toysfortots.org.

Christina Stock may be contacted at 622-7710, ext. 309, or at vision@rdrnews.com.