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U.S. Marines collect toys for children in need

By Staff | Dec 20, 2019

The Toys for Tots box was filled to overflowing this weekend, as the U.S. Marines collected toys at the Jefferson County Community Center. Toni Milbourne

SHEPHERDSTOWN — Along with dozens of other locations in Jefferson County, the Jefferson County Community Center was a drop off location for Toys for Tots this year.

On Saturday, the U.S. Marines were on hand at the center to collect toys, as part of their nationwide program to ensure that all children have Christmas gifts.

The event was headed up by the Garrison Corellia Chapter of the 501st Legion, a volunteer charity organization specializing in costuming from the Star Wars movies.

For all of those who brought toys, the “Stormtroopers” held demonstrations, as well as hosting interactive sessions with the children.

The 501st Legion works with hundreds of charities worldwide to promote Star Wars and philanthropy through costume enthusiasm. Each costume, down to the stitching patterns and placement of patches, has been meticulously designed by legion members to be exactly accurate to the movies.

Since its founding in 1997, the 501st Legion has volunteered almost 200,000 hours and has had over $800,000 donated to charities in its name. This is the seventh year the group has partnered with Toys for Tots.

The Toys for Tots program is run by the United States Marine Corps Reserve, which distributes toys to children whose parents cannot afford to buy them gifts for Christmas. The program was founded in 1947 by reservist Major Bill Hendricks.

While the program runs year-round, it is more prominently seen at Christmastime, as more receptacles for toys are placed in various locations, such as the Jefferson County Community Center.

“We had a lot of response to it,” said Becki Zaglifa, public relations with the Parks and Recreation. “The Toys for Tots people were thrilled with the support. Typically, they are standing on a street corner, and this was the first time they’ve tried an event like this.

“It is a great partnership and wonderful for the community,” Zaglifa said. “We certainly would love to have them back at the community center. It is a great charity and hopefully, it will grow here.”

According to the Toys for Tots website, the Eastern Panhandle distributed 12,723 toys in 2018, supporting just over 5,100 children. While their campaign for 2019 is now closed, the campaign for 2020 will open after the new year. Applications will be available in October 2020 for those who may need the help of the campaign to provide Christmas.

For more information on the Toys for Tots program, visit www.toysfortots.org.