LIMA — A collaborative campaign that helps provide Christmas presents to needy families kicked off Wednesday in Allen County.
Toys for Tots, an annual effort of the Lima Noon Optimist Club, the Lima Salvation Army and the Marine Corps Reserve, runs through Dec. 10.
The organizations collect new, unwrapped toys that the Salvation Army distributes to less fortunate children in Allen County. Barrels that read, “Toys for Tots,” have been placed in more than 150 locations throughout the county, including fire and police departments, car dealerships and retail outlets.
Those wishing to participate in the program may place their unwrapped toys in one of the collection boxes in the area.
“It’s a way for us to get each kid whose family is struggling the chance to have a nice, merry Christmas,” said Bill Lewis, chairman of the Noon Optimists’ Toys for Tots Committee. “We make sure the kids who wouldn’t have, will have.”
In 2015, the Toys for Tots program distributed 8,895 toys to 1,854 children in Allen County. Since 2003, 120,965 toys have been donated to 25,568 children.
“Those statistics tell you how important the program is,” Lewis said.
Lima Mayor David Berger, who issued an official proclamation during Wednesday’s campaign kick-off, said “it is undeniable that there are children who truly need this special care.”
“There are people here in Lima and Allen County who simply don’t have other options,” Berger said. “The parents understand the situation, but often the kids do not. So the opportunity for them to have something special really does make a difference.”
Sgt. Kenneth Barnett, a local recruiter for the Marine Corps, said he understands the impact Toys for Tots has on needy families.
“These kids may not have the family that can provide them toys because it’s the wintertime and they need coats, hats, gloves and those type of things that take more of a precedence over toys,” Barnett said. “The fact that all these people volunteer and give toys for these kids, it inspires hope for them and for their future.”
Barnett said he plans to take time out of his schedule to donate toys and help collect them for The Salvation Army.
“I’d like to do my part,” he said. “I will do as much as I can to help out the young children of America and the Lima community.”
Reach John Bush at 567-242-0456 or on Twitter @bush_lima.