Christmas is nearly here, but there is still time to support less fortunate boys and girls with the gift of a toy.
The Marine Toys for Tots Foundation is working through its busiest time of the year, collecting funds and unwrapped presents across the country – and the pandemic is not slowing the group down, said the nonprofit’s chairman, Lt. Gen. Robert Milstead, USMC (Ret), a Life Member of MOAA.
“The goodness about Toys for Tots is that it has evolved so much, especially overcoming trials of a pandemic, but still being able to come out on top and just to see that people still have grace and are still willing to give and be involved in the development of children,” Milstead said. “It really gives you hope.”
The foundation is coming off of a record year, collecting more than 20.2 million toys for 7.4 million homes in 2020. But supply chain issues are creating new problems for the toy drive, this year, Milstead said.
There are two ways you can make a difference in 2021:
- Find your local drop-off site by clicking this link. Use the drop-down menu to search by state and county. Be sure to check the deadline to contribute, but many locations are still accepting new, unwrapped toys.
- Make a monetary donation via the Toys for Tots website, or drop a toy in the Virtual Toy Box.
Toys for Tots was founded in 1947 by a Marine Corps reservist, Maj. Bill Hendricks, and his wife Diane. Walt Disney designed the effort’s first campaign poster. In 1991, Toys for Tots became a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit charity at the behest of the Marine Corps.
Toys for Tots’ mission now extends well beyond the holiday season, to last all year, Milstead said.
Toys for Tots distributed 1 million toys and games to COVID-impacted families during spring and summer as part of their DoGoodNOW and Unplug and Play campaigns. The group also provided 1 million books in the warmer months through the Toys For Tots Literacy Program and distributed toys to 17,000 Afghanistan refugee children in the U.S.
Lt. Gen. Robert Milstead, USMC (Ret), was commissioned in March 1975. He retired in 2014 and took over as chairman of the board at the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation in 2018. (Courtesy photo)
“It's been about giving something back,” Milstead said. “It’s a great organization, and it's tied to the Marine Corps.”
Milstead, a member of MOAA’s Southeastern North Carolina (SENCLAND) Chapter, served 40 years in the Corps and spent his early years flying Cobra helicopters as a naval aviator. His final role in uniform was as deputy commandant for Manpower and Reserve Affairs.
In addition to supporting Toys for Tots, he serves as the Managing Director for the Marine Corps-Law Enforcement Foundation, an organization that gives $35,000 to every child of every Marine or federal law enforcement officer who dies on active duty.