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Toys for Tots LaGrange accepting donations

With Thanksgiving in the rearview mirror, the LaGrange/Troup County Toys for Tots campaign is ramping up, setting up donation boxes around town and accepting donations of money or new, unwrapped toys.

Bernard Bledsoe of the Marine Corps League has been involved with Toys for Tots in LaGrange since 2000. 

He had previously been coordinator of the LaGrange campaign, but is now serving as assistant coordinator to Al Yates, the coordinator of the campaign.

The program, run by the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve, benefits children whose families lack the resources to buy toys around the holidays,

“I do this because kids can’t pick their parents,” Bledsoe said.

Bledsoe said they typically serve between 1,300 and 1,700 children per year. In 2019, about 5,800 toys were distributed to about 1,400 children. Bledsoe said there’s no specific goal this year, only that they want as many toys as possible

“Would I rather have money or toys? I’d rather have toys. The reason is, people in LaGrange give great toys … the variety of toys that we get donated and the quality of toys we get donated is outstanding,” Bledsoe said.

Toys for Tots typically partners with first responders to collect toys at Walmart. Officers from local law enforcement agencies, firefighters and emergency medical personnel will appear at Walmart on weekends in December to talk with shoppers, who can donate money or buy toys inside for donation.

While Yates, Bledsoe and others collect the toys, they are then distributed through the LaGrange Empty Stocking Fund (via LaGrange Personal Aid), the Hogansville Empty Stocking Fund (via the Pilot Club of Hogansville) and the Salvation Army. Toys for Tots boxes will start popping up at offices, fire and police stations, government buildings and grocery stores around Troup County. 

Those who wish to donate money for toys can do so online by going to www.toysfortots.org and selecting the LaGrange campaign.

Bledsoe said they had hoped to receive more applications for toys by now. People in need can apply to receive toys through the three distributors. Sometimes people don’t apply until shortly before Christmas, Bledsoe said, by which time the toys have already been collected and distributed.

“For some reason, last year, there was a decline in the number of people applying,” Bledsoe said. “And this year, probably because of COVID, there’s a decline too. But I would have thought this year with people out of work and that kind of thing, there ought to be a bigger demand.”