Aiken's Toys for Tots campaign will hold its second Christmas party on Monday, Dec. 20 from 4 to 6:30 p.m. at Willcox Inn.The party, which will also serve as a toy drop-off location, will include Santa, Christmas music and a lobby full of revelers, and local photographer Todd Lista will be present to take children's and family's pictures with Santa.At 5:30 p.m., guests will be invited to gather around the piano and sing Christmas carols. Song sheets will be available for all who wish to participate.Toys for Tots, a mission of the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve, was started in 1947 as an effort to provide needy children with Christmas gifts, but Lane Parker, lead coordinator of the Marine Corps League Detachment 939, said it was just last year that Aiken began a campaign of its own."We were working with a Marine reserve in Augusta, but it began to be a hassle transporting the toys back and forth, so we registered with the National Toys for Tots Foundation to break out and hold a campaign of our own," he explained.Last year, the Aiken campaign raised $4,500 and collected more than 12,000 toys for needy children in Aiken County.More than 100 toy drop boxes are located at various businesses throughout Aiken County, where any type of toy for any age and gender is accepted. Toys must be new and still in the packaging, said Parker.When donation boxes are full, they are transported to a warehouse in Aiken and sorted out by volunteers."This is a very arduous task which takes a lot of volunteers to sort all these toys," said Parker. "You basically have to handle each toy one by one."When all toys are collected and sorted, the Marine Corps League members work with the Salvation Army to decide which gender and age group may be lacking, at which point they use the funds raised to purchase toys for the remaining group of children."That way it ensures that everybody gets something geared toward their age group," Parker explained.Parker said he is pleased with how many donations they have received, and the children will begin receiving these toys around Dec. 21."We live in a good community, and people are really receptive to this, and they do all they can do," Parker said. "This isn't the best of times as far as for people to be generous, but they are. And it's just great that people do that."For more information on how you can help the Toys for Tots Campaign in Aiken, call Parker at 644-8300 or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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