Sign-ups for the Tullahoma Fire Department’s annual Toys for Tots campaign will begin at 10 this morning at C.D. Stamps Community Center, department officials told The News.
The annual toy drive seeks to give Tullahoma children in need, up to age 14, toys their families might not otherwise be able to afford, according to Chief Richard Shasteen. The fire department holds the drive every year in conjunction with the U.S. Marine Corps, Shasteen said earlier this year.
“We handle the Tullahoma city area for them,” he said.
The department has been holding the annual drive for more than 40 years, Shasteen added.
Each year, the campaign helps roughly 500 children receive toys for Christmas thanks to both toy and monetary donations from the community.
Parents who wish to sign up their children for the program are requested to head to C.D. Stamps Community Center, located at 810 S. Jackson St., beginning at 10 a.m. today, Nov. 30.
Today’s signups will last from 10 a.m. to noon, according to Shasteen. A second day of signups will be held from 9 to 11 a.m. tomorrow, Dec. 1, he said.
In order for a child to be eligible, parents must present a birth certificate for each child they are registering. Proof of residency within the city of Tullahoma is also required. Examples are utility bill from Tullahoma Utilities Authority or a photo ID.
No child’s Social Security card will be accepted as identifying information, although the parent will need to provide the last five digits of their social security number, according to department officials.
As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, Toys for Tots operates solely on donations – of both the toy and monetary kind.
The department isn’t large enough to hold all the toys people want to donate, so only monetary donations can be accepted until the department has a space to hold the “shopping” day.
The space to store toys will become available soon, Shasteen said. Toy donations can be made starting Sunday.
When donating toys, Shasteen said one age group the department struggles to serve is the 10- to 14-year-olds. While younger children are easier to shop for, older children are less inclined to want things such as teddy bears or board games.
Instead, Shasteen said, more useful items, such as curling irons and other hair styling tools for girls, tool sets and clock radios for boys might be considered as donated items. Generally speaking, he said, small electronics like Bluetooth speakers are what tend to be purchased for children in that age range.
Throw blankets and body pillows are also some items the department has given children in that age range in the past.
“That’s the hardest group to buy for,” he said.
Despite the difficulty shopping for that age group, Shasteen said any donated items would be welcomed.
Monetary donations, however, are always the best way to help the program, he said. Every dollar donated to Toys for Tots allows the department to buy more items than the average person would.
As a nonprofit, Toys for Tots enjoys a tax-exempt status, meaning the fire department officials who buy toys with donated funds are able to buy more of them when they do the shopping.
Those who would like to donate by cash or check are encouraged to stop by Fire Station No. 1, located at 613 S. Jackson St.
Erin McCullough may be reached at email@example.com.