Anyone who’s done much shopping on Whidbey Island lately may have noticed the Toys for Tots collection boxes.
The annual toy drive, conducted by the Maj. Megan McClung Marine Corps League Detachment 1210, is well under way, and organizers say the need is greater than ever.
“We’re up a couple of hundred kids this year,” said Mike McClung, who organizes the toy drive each year along with his wife, Re. Last year Toys for Tots supported more than 1,600 children. This year they expect that number to be more than 1,800.
McClung said he is limited by Toys for Tots guidelines on what he can spend per toy, so he and Re look for coupons and bargains for items he knows they need. Last year they found coupons ranging from 30 percent to 50 percent off, but so far this year the biggest savings they’ve seen has been 20 percent. Plus toys, like everything else, are more expensive this year.
“Every gift is up anywhere from $2 to $5,” he said. “So we’re trying to find the best way we can to purchase them.”
Toys for Tots on Whidbey Island does not handle the distribution of toys. Instead, they partner with several island agencies — the Department of Children’s Services, Fostering Together, Tree of Hope, and Holiday House Central and South. The agencies share children’s holiday “wish lists” and McClung tries to target his shopping list to those requested items, ensuring that every child in need on Whidbey Island has at least one gift Christmas morning. Every toy and every dollar donated on Whidbey Island stays here.
The only time members of the Marine Corps League solicit for funds is their annual drive at the Clinton ferry dock, said McClung. This year’s drive will take place from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 8 and Sunday, Dec. 9.
“Nobody will come and knock on your door and nobody will call you,” he said. “We don’t do that.”
Toys for Tots volunteers will also collect toys and donations at the annual Navy Band holiday concert at 7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 8 at Oak Harbor High School’s Performing Arts Center. McClung also hopes to have collection boxes at the school’s choir and band concerts.
Popular items this year include sports equipment such as baseball bats and balls, games, soft-faced dolls without buttons, tea sets and Lego kits.
Organizations are also welcome to purchase items such as bicycles and fishing rods. McClung said that is particularly helpful when they are limited to spending $30 per item. He said last year one of the local banks donated 25 bicycles, something he never would have been able to do.
“Any agency that wants to make a purchase is welcome to do so,” he said. “A lot of kids like fishing rods, but any rod and reel set under $30 would be OK for younger children but not for teenagers.
“We cannot deliver a toy that’s not of good quality,” McClung continued. “We look to make sure there’s value there.”
New, unwrapped toys can be dropped off anywhere there is an official Toys for Tots box through Dec. 22. The boxes are white and have the familiar, official Toys for Tots logo used since 1947 on them.
Those who want to send a donation can make checks payable to: Toys for Tots — Whidbey, MCL Detachment 1210, P.O. Box 977, Oak Harbor, WA, 98277.
McClung said organizing the annual toy drive is both rewarding and frustrating, because they can’t always get the items they want to get. But he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I love doing it,” he said. “It keeps Christmas alive for us.”