By Stephanie Choate
As shoppers crowd the stores on Black Friday, scanning the aisles for the perfect gift for everyone on their list, they can spend a few extra dollars to bring holiday cheer to needy Vermont children.
Hundreds of red barrels have popped up across the state recently, marking the beginning of this year’s Toys for Kids collection program. The program, run by the Marine Corps League of Vermont, is the state’s largest 100 percent volunteer-run holiday toy collection program.
“No kid should have to get up Christmas morning and say, ‘How come Santa Claus can’t come to my house on Christmas?” said John Welsh, a member of the Marine Corps League’s Burlington-based Donald Cook Detachment, who organizes the program.
Shoppers can place new unwrapped toys in any of the red barrels in town, or put loose change in the mini coin-collection barrels. Each barrel is assigned a monitor, who picks up the toys and brings them to a Toys for Kids collection center. Toys are distributed to families through local agencies, primarily the Salvation Army.
Welsh said he knows there are many demands on people’s dollars this season, but he encouraged people to give to local agencies.
“You can be assured that if you give to Toys for Kids, its staying local,” he said. “Everyone says ‘buy local, shop local,’ why not give local? We’re dealing with local people, and everything you give is staying right here.”
Beyond keeping toys and donations in Vermont, Welsh said Toys for Kids also works to keep donations in the community in which they were given.
He said he also worked to protect people’s giving, making sure other agencies that want to distribute toys, such as church groups, check to make sure the families they are giving to aren’t already serviced by the Salvation Army.
Toys for Kids also accepts monetary donations, using it mainly to buy gifts for older kids, who are often overlooked. Checks can be mailed to Toys for Kids, P.O. Box 4092, Burlington, VT 05406.
For more information, visit www.toysforkidsvt.com.
Toys for Kids Williston donation barrel locations
Simply Divine Café, 426 Industrial Avenue
New England Air Systems, 45 Krupp Drive
The Edge — Williston, 115 Wellness Drive
Texas Roadhouse, 225 Interstate Corporate drive
Hannaford Supermarket, 78 Marshall Avenue
New England Federal Credit Union, 141 Harvest Lane
Town Cobbler, 27 Taft Corners Shopping Center
UPS Store, Taft Corners Shopping Center
Peoples United Bank, 421 Blair Park
Legacy Financial, Zephyr Road
Shaw’s Supermarket, 71 Boxwood Street
Allen Brook School, 497 Talcott Road
Williston Fire Department, 7900 Williston Road
Williston Central School, 195 Central School Drive
Wal-Mart, 863 Harvest Lane