SHIAWASSEE COUNTY — Wireless Zone of Owosso is one of 190 drop-off centers this year for Shiawassee County’s U.S. Marine Corps Toys For Tots Program, which collects new, unwrapped toys and distributes them as Christmas gifts to needy children in the community.
“This is our ninth year collecting,” Wireless Zone manager Tammi Taylor said. “The whole thing behind Toys For Tots is to build hope in families who aren’t in the best situation. They take a very community approach to distributing the toys. They want parents to able choose the toys for their kids. That builds hope, and I think that’s fantastic.”
Wireless Zone (Cartronics), located at 1031 E. Main St. in Owosso, started collecting toys about a week ago. The company’s drop-off box is available for donating whenever the store is open, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday-Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.
Other drop-off sites include Windmill Point in Bancroft, Corunna High School, Graff’s Chevrolet in Durand, Subway in Laingsburg, Dollar General in Lennon, Arthur’s Pizzeria in New Lothrop, Gilbert’s Hardware in Owosso, D’s Party Store in Chesaning, McDonald’s in Perry and Harrands Market in Vernon.
To find out where the closest Toys For Tots drop-off center near you or any other information, call the Shiawassee Toys For Tots office at (989) 720-8487 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The local toy collection drive runs through Dec. 16. Then, between Dec. 18-20, program officials will distribute the toys at the Michigan National Guard’s Shiawassee County Readiness Center, 675 W. Corunna Ave. in Corunna. Appointments are required.
The locations where parents can sign up for toys can be found on the Toys For Tots Shiawassee County Facebook Page. Unlike in other years, there is more than one sign-up spot this season, county Toys For Tots assistant coordinator Lance Gilmore said.
The toys are organized into age and gender groups, facilitating the shopping for parents. Last year, 5,884 toys were distributed to 1,041 children in Shiawassee County — numbers many of the participating local organizations and individuals are proud of.
“I’m continually surprised, not just by the generosity of the people in Shiawassee County for gifts, but how giving they are of their time and energy to serve,” said Gilmore, a New Haven Township resident and local Toys For Tots official for the past decade.
“People do well here,” Taylor said. “We generally fill the box. I’d like to fill it twice this year, and fill the need in our community.”
Gilmore and head coordinator Gerald Alcorn have worked extra hard this year to increase the number of drop-off sites, spreading them out to the four corners of the county and beyond.
Previously, they were mostly clustered in Owosso and Corunna.
“Some areas didn’t feel represented,” Gilmore said.
“Now, they’re more tied to it. We’re really hoping this new approach will help people in places like Perry or New Lothrop not feel disenfranchised. This is their program as well.”
The Marines Toys For Tots Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit public charity, is the fundraising, funding and support organization for the U. S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys For Tots Program. The Foundation was created at the behest of the U.S. Marine Corps and has supported Toys for Tots since 1991.
The program’s stated mission is to collect new, unwrapped toys during October, November and December each year, and distribute those toys to needy children in the community as Christmas gifts.