COVINGTON -- It's the mission of Toys for Tots to give children in need something to smile about during the holidays, but this year, if donations don't pick up, some little ones may get nothing for Christmas.
Donations of toys are down, although the need has increased, according to area Toys for Tots coordinators.
The warehouse where toys are stored for the 17-county North Atlanta toy drive is empty, according to media coordinator Cherrie Carney, who said about 80,000 toys have already been distributed this year. Gunnery Sgt. Sherman Smith with the Newton High School Marine Corps Junior ROTC said local donations have been "very, very scarce."
The ROTC has coordinated the local toy drive for the past 16 years. Smith said he decided to organize a local effort after learning that toys collected through the Atlanta campaign may not stay in Newton. Any toys donated at the ROTC's drop box locations will remain in the county and be distributed to local qualified families that have been screened through the Department of Family and Children Services and other non-profits, such as the Salvation Army and Repairers of the Breach, Smith said.
ROTC Toys for Tots drop boxes are located at Newton Walmart, Big Lots, Bank of North Georgia, Snapping Shoals EMC and Publix, as well as most schools in the county.
The age group targeted is newborns through age 14, according to Carney. Toys must be new and unwrapped. Dvds and video games are also accepted.
Dec. 16 is the last day donations can be made. Toys will be distributed the following day.
Smith said students are very involved in collections, manning the boxes at Walmart and Big Lots on weekends, and sorting, bagging and distributing the toys.
Smith encouraged those who can to give.
"Lots of kids don't have anything. Something is better than nothing. My philosophy is you get what you give in life," he said.
Carney noted that it's not necessary to spend a lot on donated toys.
"Some things we use as stocking stuffers. Nothing is too small," she said, adding that monetary donations, "even just a dollar," are also welcome. To make a monetary donation, visit http://northatlanta.toysfortots.org or send a check to North Atlanta Toys for Tots; 2700 Ivy Mill Drive; Buford, GA; 30519.
Donations can be made at any Publix in metro Atlanta up until Dec. 23 and any ToysRUs and BabiesRUs stores throughout the country.
Other local donation sites are as follows, according to the North Georgia Toys for Tots website:
-- Ankle & Foot Centers of Georgia, collecting through Dec. 17, 3152 Highway 278, Covington and 1720 Honey Creek Commons, Ste. B, Conyers;
-- Big Lots, collecting through Dec. 17, 1820 Highway 20, Conyers;
-- Calvary Temple Pentecostal Church, collecting through Dec. 11, 7115 Highway 278 East,Covington;
-- Fit Candy Studio, collecting through Dec. 19, 2455 Salem Rd.,
-- Georgia Department of Driver Services, collecting through Dec. 16, 2206 EastView Parkway, Conyers;
-- Kids R Kids, collecting through Dec. 19, 2000 Eastside Drive, Conyers;
-- LA Fitness, collecting through Dec. 16, 1618 Highway 138 SE, Conyers;
-- Newton Rockdale OB/GYN Specialists, collecting through Dec. 17, 7129 Floyd St., Covington;
-- OLYMPICTIRES, collecting through Dec. 17, 2360 Wall Street SE, Conyers;
-- Olan Mills Portrait Studios, collecting through Dec. 17, 6239 Turner Lake Rd NW, inside Kmart, Covington;
-- Simply United Together, collecting through Dec. 17, 1180 West Ave, Suite C, Conyers;
-- Sports Barber Shop, collecting through Dec. 19, 3600 Salem Road, Covington;
-- The Listening Ear LLC Counseling Center, collecting through Dec. 9, 1500 Klondike Road A105, Conyers;
Toys for Tots is a non-profit program of the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve. There are nearly 20,000 Marine Corps League members, veteran Marines and volunteers involved in the annual nationwide campaign.