Organizers of the 2005 Toys for Tots Drive hope to build on last year's success by collecting enough toys to help 1,000 local children this holiday season.
"I have to admit (that) I was pleased beyond words with the support we received in our very first year," said organizer Tony Kwiatkowski . "I sat back several times and shook my head in amazement. While delivering the toys and seeing the looks on the social workers' faces, and some of the parents' faces, I had to do everything I could to hold back tears of happiness.
"I truly hope community residents will consider working with this great organization this holiday season and help us achieve our goal of helping 1,000 local children and collecting more than 2,000 new and unwrapped toys," he said.
A total of 1,312 new and unwrapped toys were collected in December 2004, and more than 830 children benefited from the community's generosity.
Kwiatkowski, a graduate student at Eastern Illinois University, is once again spearheading the efforts to bring the university and the Coles County area community together so that children won't be disappointed Christmas day. Many on-campus student organizations, along with Lake Land College and area businesses, are working together toward the year's goal.
"My goal for this event was to bring several organizations together in order to help out the children in our community," Kwiatkowski said. "There are always a lot of small charity events throughout the holiday season that help out a small portion of individuals during the holidays. I was hoping to unite all these organizations to create one large event so that more members of the community can benefit. They always say there's power in numbers."
Kwiatkowski chose Toys of Tots because it's "a very strong children's charity foundation that is only going to get stronger, and I wanted to support the Marines in any way possible."
The program began in 1947 when the United States Marine Corps Reserve in Los Angeles collected and distributed 5,000 toys to needy children. That campaign was so successful that the Marine Corps adopted Toys for Tots a year later and expanded it into a nationwide campaign.
Since the program's inception, more than 313 million toys have been distributed to 151 million children.
According to Kwiatkowski, this year's local Toys for Tots drive will continue through Friday, Dec. 9. Toys will then be distributed during the week of Dec. 12 to local social service agencies who, in turn, will make sure the nearly 500 underprivileged children in Coles County alone will receive donated toys. Additional children in Douglas, Edgar, Cumberland , Clark , Jasper, Crawford and Vermilion counties also will receive gifts.
Kwiatkowski noted that toys for all ages of children are needed. Last year, he said, there was a lack of toys for two age groups - newborns through three-year-olds and older children (ages 13 to 16). Toy cars and trucks were popular boy gifts, as were dolls for the girls.
Drop-off sites on and near Eastern's campus include the Martin Luther King Jr. University Union (the University Bookstore, Dining/Housing Office, Orientation Office, Student Life Office and the Union Business Office), the Tarble Arts Center, Booth Library, Old Main, University Police Department, the Neal Welcome Center, the School of Continuing Education and the Newman Catholic Center. Several departments and other offices, as well as Greek Court , will be accepting donations, as well.
Donors may also drop off new, unwrapped toys at the following county businesses: In Ashmore - Ashmore Elementary School , 313 S. Ohio St . In Charleston - Addus Health Care and Family Services, 1381 Beach Tree Rd.; Carl Sandburg Elementary School, 1924 Reynolds Drive; Charleston Fire Department, 1510 A St.; Charleston High School, 1615 Lincoln Ave.; Charleston Lanes, 1310 E St.; Coldwell Banker Classic Real Estate, 655 W. Lincoln Ave.; Consolidated Communications, 700 W. Lincoln Ave.; ITW (Illinois Tool Works) Hi-Cone, 1155 N. Fifth St.; Jefferson Elementary School, 801 Jefferson Ave.; Linda Nugent Realtors, 1230 Division St.; Mark Twain Elementary School, 1021 13 th St.; Razorz Edge, 605 Monroe; Wesley Foundation, 2202 Fourth St.; and World Class Collision Center, 634 Castle Dr. In Mattoon - Coles-Moultrie Electric Cooperative, 104 DeWitt Ave. East; Lake Land College , 5001 Lake Land Blvd. ; Re/Max Premier Realtors, 88 Broadway; and Side Door Beauty Salon, 3012 DeWitt Ave.
For information, contact Kwiatkowski at (217) 581-3829 or firstname.lastname@example.org . Information is also available at the following Web site: http://www.pen.eiu.edu/cgak/.