Lincoln County Toys for Tots may have already handed out toys to more than 900 needy area children this month but the organization anticipates more than 600 additional children from the county’s eastern end will be at their next toy drive Christmas Eve at Denver Fire Department headquarters.
The organization distributed toys multiple times this month at the National Guard Armory in Lincolnton, according to Assistant Toys for Tots Coordinator Sherry Trevino.
The Lincoln County native said she knows what it feels like to grow up in a single-parent household with meager holidays and will never forget the one Christmas, at age five, she received a bride doll someone donated to the local Veterans of Foreign War post.
A Marine married to a Marine, Trevino is part of the Capt. Jeb F. Seagle Marine Corps League in Lincoln County, a group that has been working furiously since Oct. 1 to fill the requests of needy area families.
“It makes me feel good to see the smiles on these kids faces, and the parents are so grateful,” Trevino said.
While some faces are repeats from years past, many faces are new.
“More (faces) than ever,” Chief Toys for Tots Coordinator Ann Reep told the Times-News. “This is the toughest year I’ve ever had.”
Growing up in foster care, Reep, also a Marine’s wife and member of the local Marine Corps League, empathizes with area children who receive little to no holiday gifts.
She remembers waking up one Christmas morning and walking outside to find two bicycles the community had donated to her and her sister.
“It was a blessing; it was unreal,” Reep said.
The particular holiday memory fueled her to join the Toys for Tots cause several years ago and give back to the community.
Every toy distribution event touches her heart.
“They say, ‘Thank you,’ with tears in their eyes,” Reep said. “All this hard work we do–it’s well worth it.”
Both Reep and Trevino blame the economy for the community’s ongoing financial troubles, forcing nearly 500 more children to struggle this Christmas.
“Everyone I talk to has gotten laid off or has no job,” Trevino said.
She knows the challenges individuals are dealing with because she took the time to personally interview and screen all the families who applied for the organization’s assistance.
Each family must show proof of their Lincoln County residency and that they aren’t getting assistance from any other organization.
However, nonprofit officials never question families about their incomes.
“It’s all about the children,” Reep said.
Because the need for toys is so great, nonprofit officials do not hand out items to grandchildren or other extended family members, Trevino said.
Reep was amazed at the outpouring of community support the organization has received so far this season.
“Without the citizens of Lincoln County buying, we would have no toys,” she said.
She also praised the Dollar General Store in High Shoals for their large contribution this year, which included over 1,700 toys. More than 30 other Lincoln County schools and businesses additionally donated to Toys for Tots, including a generous financial donation from the owner of Zippers Restaurant & Lounge in Lincolnton, Reep said.
People may still drop off new, unwrapped toys 3-9 p.m. Friday through Sunday at the Walgreens in Lincolnton or anytime this week at the Denver Fire Department, located at 3956 North Highway 16 in Denver.
For more information, individuals can contact the department at (704) 483-5115 or Ann Reep at (828) 994-7224. Toys for Tots will be at the Denver Fire Department 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday, handing out toys. The organization takes donations year round. To donate, visit toysfortots.org.
“This is my Christmas — making sure I see another child smile,” Reep said.