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Toys for Tots donation drive wows organizers

Buffalo Ridge Leathernecks Marine Corps Detachment in Worthington collected new toys for children who might not otherwise get Christmas gifts. The distribution event will be from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday for parents whose applications were approved. They will be able to hand-select toys for their children from the donations provided.

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Nobles County Marine Corps Reserves Toys for Tots campaign members Dan Harrington (from left), Tina Johnson, Caryn Harrington and Gary Stewart are shown with bags filled with more than 150 toys that they purchased with local donations last week at Walgreens in Worthington. The toys will be distributed this Saturday to families whose applications for assistance were accepted. (Special to The Globe)

WORTHINGTON — When Dan Harrington led the charge to establish a Marine Corps League Detachment in Nobles County 14 months ago, one of his top priorities for the 24-member Buffalo Ridge Leathernecks was to start a Toys for Tots campaign to deliver Christmas cheer to local children.

In November, Harrington and members of the detachment kicked off the Toys for Tots campaign locally. They placed 18 collection boxes — two in Adrian, one in Fulda and the rest in Worthington — and sought applications from families who needed a little help to give their children Christmas gifts this year.

The result: approximately 130 children from 40 families from across Nobles County will receive toys thanks to the generosity of those who have provided monetary donations or helped to fill the collection boxes. The distribution event is on Saturday, when parents will get to choose the toys best suited for their children.

Harrington said his team will continue to take donations of new toys, as well as applications from families, through Thursday. They want to provide toys to as many local children as possible.

Nationally, Toys for Tots was started by the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves in 1948. While the program is now managed by the Toys for Tots Foundation, the foundation staff is comprised of Marine Corps Reservists and retired Marines. Harrington, a Marine Corps veteran, said the nearest Toys for Tots campaign had been in Mankato, prompting his desire to establish the program locally.

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“Although I know the Worthington community does a lot for the kids around the holidays, I just felt it was possible we could reach other kids that maybe weren’t eligible for those programs,” Harrington said. “We don’t just focus on income-based requisites. We also look at financial hardships that come up at the last minute and medical hardships.

“If a parent comes to me and says 'we’re in need to make Christmas happen for our children because we’re not able to afford gifts,' that’s something we can help with,” he added.

Harrington was amazed by the generosity of the community. He noted that in an eight-day stretch, the collection box at Walgreens had filled with 125 donated toys.

“We didn’t want to leave Worthington to buy our toys (with the monetary donations),” Harrington said. “Since Walgreens has been a big supporter for us, we went there and purchased the toys.”

One night last week, Harrington’s team spent $1,000 in monetary contributions to purchase 159 toys from the local store.

Pulver Towing of Worthington is sponsoring the Toys for Tots campaign. It joined the U.S. Marine Corps veterans in promoting the program with entries in both the Tinsel and Tidings on 10th parade in Worthington and the Polar Express parade last weekend in Fulda. The towing company has also offered its Worthington shop as the site for Saturday’s toy distribution.

Parents who have already applied to the program will receive a written letter detailing the distribution, while those who apply yet this week will be notified by phone if their children will be able to get gifts.

For application information, people are asked to call Tina Johnson at 329-7466.

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Harrington said he’s also looking for a few more volunteers to help with Saturday’s distribution. Any adults willing to help are asked to call him at 360-7472 or Johnson. Also, if a parent doesn’t have a way to get to the distribution site on Saturday, volunteers are available to provide shuttle service. Those calls should also be directed to Harrington or Johnson.

With the number of toys collected and the number of applications, Johnson anticipates each child will get three to four toys. Also, thanks to a donation of 500 books from the Mankato Toys for Tots program, the children will also get two or three books and a stocking stuffer.

“We wanted to make sure the toys and money donations stay local and they will, they’ll stay in Nobles County — they won’t go anywhere else,” Harrington said.

With this inaugural event deemed a success, Harrington is already looking forward to next year.

“I’m hopeful next year people will see Toys for Tots and we’ll see even bigger participation from the community,” he said. “Myself and my staff, we’re just floored at just how generous everybody has been."

Julie Buntjer became editor of The Globe in July 2021, after working as a beat reporter at the Worthington newspaper since December 2003. She has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism from South Dakota State University.
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