Toys for Tots celebrates sixth year in Ashe County
Article originally published on 23 December 2021 by the Mountain Times.
Pictured from left are volunteers Tim Hudak, Preston Edgell, Ava Edgell, Steven Hudak, Patricia Lee, Rebekka Lee, Dick Taylor Tammy Whichard, Donna Northrop and Luke Whichard pause for a team photo before distributing toys Saturday, Dec. 18. photo by Cameron Adams JEFFERSON — Not all of Santa’s elves live at the North Pole. In Ashe County the Marine Corps League of Ashe County Detachment 1389 has worked all year to solicit donations of toys and money to spread Christmas cheer among those less fortunate. By the close of Saturday, Dec. 18, more than 150 youngsters would be guaranteed something under the tree.
In a return appearance from 2020, the Salvation Army pitched in a turkey dinner with all the trimmings for each household.
“We are given the names from school counselors and the Department of Social Services,” said Commandant Luke Whichard as he wrangled volunteers in preparation for the carefully orchestrated deliveries timed to the quarter hour from the basement of Christian Unity Baptist Church in Jefferson.
Sharing the joys of Christmas is also a business. Whichard proudly touted the Toys For Tots Charity Navigator scores while explaining that donated funds get maximum value in wholesale purchases. Any leftovers are warehoused for distribution next year. Every five years Toys for Tots leadership must submit to background checking and procedures training “to keep people’s hands out of the cookie jar,” he smiled.
While Ashe County marks its sixth year with the program, the national movement dates from 1947, when Marine Corps Reserve Major Bill Hendricks was asked by his wife, Diane, to help distribute some handcrafted dolls. Hendricks’ day job was head of public relations for Warner Brothers, which gave him a deep well of talent to tap. Walt Disney drew their first poster, which featured the now famous three-car train. At the behest of the Marine Corps Reserve, Toys For Tots gained 501©(3) status in 1991.