Families in need this holiday season will not go without something to put under the tree for their children, thanks to the Tullahoma Fire Department’s Toys for Tots program.
According to Fire Chief Richard Shasteen, 184 families received boxes of free toys for their children and grandchildren this year, slightly fewer than last year’s total.
“We’re down about 20 or 25 families,” he said. “We usually have a little over 200 families.”
Having fewer families to assist isn’t a bad thing in Shasteen’s opinion – quite the opposite, in fact.
Shasteen said the department would love to see no families needing the assistance from the Toys for Tots program, because it means no family would be going without around the holidays.
“We hope that it means people are working and able to do it on their own,” he said. “The economy is certainly doing well, so we feel like that was a direct reflection of our lower numbers.”
There were some years that saw more than 300 families need the Toys for Tots assistance, Shasteen said, so having fewer than 200 this year was a good number.
“We would like to have zero families,” Shasteen added.
Still, gifting 184 Tullahoma families with toys for Christmas is a welcome endeavor for TFD.
Members of TFD and Tullahoma Police Department carted box after box to people’s cars on Friday, loading them up with all the toys and gifts they would need to make their children’s Christmas the happiest.
Each box also had some candy and treats inside as well, according to Shasteen. Each family was also given a flier with information about Mayor Lane Curlee’s free Christmas meals, he said.
Each child received around four or five toys, Shasteen said, with between $40 and $50 spent on each recipient.
“It’s all age appropriate,” Shasteen said of the toys. Some older children may have received more electronics, such as clock radios or Bluetooth speakers, but every child received something geared toward their age group, whether it be dolls and model cars or sleeping bags and board games.
With all the toys given out, the focus now turns to replenishing the bank and building it back up for next year’s campaign.
Shasteen said the department aims to raise around $20,000 each year in order to help the families signed up for the program.
This year’s campaign fell short of that goal, only reaching around $14,500 – approximately $5,500 short.
“We have a budget that we count on, and we’re just a little bit behind,” Shasteen said. “So if anybody wants to give, please give in the next few days. That would certainly help us.”
The money collected will both replenish what the department spent on this year’s families as well as start building up next year’s bank.
“Any money we collect now will replenish what we used in our balance so we’ll be prepared for next year,” Shasteen said.
And the department will take monetary donations for Toys for Tots year round – not just at Christmas.
“Sometimes people will designate Toys for Tots with a memorial if somebody passes away instead of flowers,” he said. “We always appreciate that. It makes a big difference.”
Anyone who wants to donate to Toys for Tots is encouraged to stop by Fire Station No. 1, located at 613 S. Jackson St. with a cash or check donation for next year’s campaign.
Toys for Tots is a program run by the United States Marine Corps Reserve which distributes toys to children whose parents cannot afford to buy them gifts for Christmas. The fire department has distributed toys in Tullahoma in conjunction with the Marine Corps for more than 40 years.
For more information on the Marine Toys for Tots, visit www.toysfortots.org.
Erin McCullough may be reached at email@example.com.