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A toy for a tot

For four days, Toys for Tots volunteers wrapped thousands of presents in preparation of today’s big event.

From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. the Olympic Peninsula Detachment, Marine Corps League will be passing out wrapped gifts to those children in need at the Pavilion at the Fairgrounds. Each child will need to have a DSHS medical coupon and the parent’s driver’s license or photo ID card or a social security card and two other forms of ID which could include the parent’s driver’s license, phone bill, electric bill or post marked envelope with a name, address and phone number.

Olympic Peninsula Detachment, Marine Corps League member Sam Martin, who has headed up the event in the past and has been associated with Toys For Tots for 25 years, expects 2,000 or more kids to attend the event today.

“This thing has gotten so big,” he said with a smile.

In preparation of the big day, volunteers usually have about a week-and-a-half to wrap all of the 2,000 to 3,000 gifts, but this year they were not able to get into the Pavilion until Tuesday.

Fran Maeirt of Bremerton, surrounded by several other volunteers spread throughout one side of the Pavilion, diligently wrapped gift after gift on Tuesday afternoon.

“I’ve wrapped maybe 75 gifts so far,” she said as she steadily folded creases in the festive holiday wrapping paper. “I started at 7:30 this morning, wrapping at home.”

Volunteering to wrap gifts for underprivileged children not only allowed a way for Maeirt to help the community, but also provided her with companionship. Holly Pitts of Bremerton and Julie Lindmark of Silverdale wrapped gifts at a nearby table. The three women joked and conversed as they focused on creating a perfectly wrapped gift to be placed under the tree of a child who might not otherwise have any.

For Lindmark that feeling hit close to home.

“I was so poor I didn’t have one toy when I was kid,” she said of her reason for volunteering to wrap gifts for Toys for Tots.

When Pitts, who has only lived in the area for a couple months, first heard of wrapping for Toys for Tots, she quickly took advantage of the opportunity.

“It’s good to give back,” she said. “Even if you don’t have the money you can still make (the gifts) look nice. It’s giving them a Christmas they wouldn’t otherwise have.”

Lindmark agreed and said it can be very hard for children who wake up Christmas morning to no presents, and for the parents who have to explain why.

“It’s especially hard when you believe in Santa Claus and you don’t know why Santa didn’t come to your house,” she said.

Each year the wrapped Toys for Tots are placed into age categories up to age 13 for both boys and girls. As of 1983 the supply of wrapping paper has yet to be an issue.

“Since 1983 we’ve had a huge ream of wrapping paper that needs to be lifted with a forklift,” said Martin’s wife Janice. “Two years ago we used a chainsaw to cut off smaller rolls. Just the amount of wrapping paper we use is phenomenal.”

She adds that she is not looking forward to the day when the roll is gone and they will have the task of finding enough wrapping paper for all the gifts. But one thing she does look forward to each year is being able to help kids have a Christmas.

“It’s nice to see that you can help them, but it’s also sad to know that so many people need this,” Janice said.

Nationally, in 2004, Toys for Tots as a whole, distributed more than 19 million toys. About 3,000 of those toys were given out at the Pavilion.

“We have a lot this year which will make it really good,” Janice said. “We send a big thank you to everyone who has donated and sent checks. We thank them from the bottom of our hearts.”

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