Local Toys for Tots coordinator Kay Past said, “We know that this community has supported the Christmas Angels program for 28 years, and it will be exciting to see the response to this year’s combined Toys for Tots and Christmas Angels campaign to provide Christmas joy for many needy families in Bee County.”
Lupe Sanchez, executive director at the Vineyard, is pleased to have Toys for Tots because, not only does it take some pressure off collecting donations, it means that children up to 15 years old will receive a present.
“We had plenty of toys for the little ones but never anything for the teenagers,” she said.
This is the first year that Beeville has had its own homegrown Toys for Tots program.
In the past, donations have come into the county through Victoria and Corpus Christi branches, but a couple of years ago, these stopped.
The area had grown to the point that the program leaders decided that someone here would need to take over collection and distribution.
There was a snag in the formation of the program, and it went dormant here for a couple of years.
Local citizens have continued to collect toys and give them out, but Toys for Tots was absent from the name.
This is where Past comes in.
As a member of the Vineyard board, she volunteered to attend the training earlier this year and coordinate the local collection.
Thus, the local group began.
“I know it will help the Christmas Angels get better toys for the kids, because the Marines offer a lot of support,” Past said. “We have already bought $1,000 worth of toys.”
Christmas Angels will continue doing its part for the needy too.
“Christmas Angels is specifically a branch of the Vineyard and established when the Vineyard was established,” Past said. “Christmas Angels will continue to collect money to give food and toiletries to the families.
“So, the Toys for Tots will simply take over the toy portion.”
This combined effort will mean more items given those in need.
Sanchez said that they began registering families this week for the giveaway.
“It is a big project, and we need a lot of volunteers to make this happen,” Sanchez said. “We have to have food sorted, and we have to get the gifts wrapped.”
The Vineyard is registering up to 400 families and 200 elderly residents for the giveaways.
“We are still looking for volunteers to help us register,” Sanchez said.
A few families have already come in and put their names on the list.
“They started today, registering and filling out their forms,” Past said Monday. “They have to meet the guidelines.”
Come December, each family is assigned a shopping day at the Vineyard.
“In mid-December, they come, one family at a time, to the Vineyard warehouse,” Past said. “They come in and pick out the toys for their children.
“That takes about three weeks in December. There will be 400 families served through Dec. 21.”
This early distribution is why toy collection boxes have already been given to many of the businesses, churches and other organizations throughout town.
“The national Marine TFT Foundation provides wonderful support for each local toy drive,” Past said. “We have our own website as part of the national one, listing each local toy drop-off site, days volunteers are needed, special events and even a donation button, where money to purchase toys may be given online to our Beeville campaign.”
To access the local website, go to www.toysfortots.org, click on the home page, then select “Texas,” then “Bee County,” and the local information and donation button will be available.
On Saturday, Dec. 1, volunteers will be needed to transform the Vineyard warehouse into Santa’s workshop. Many more volunteers will be needed from Dec. 5-21 to assist parents in shopping for their children and wrapping the toys.
Those who wish to volunteer should call the Vineyard at 358-7500 or go by the agency at 210 N. Monroe St. to fill out volunteer forms.
The UPS Store at 100 E. Hutchinson St. has a box for cash donations which will be used to purchase children’s books for the TFT drive.
Jason Collins is the editor at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 121, or at editor@mySouTex.com.