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It’s not just about picking up toys from the Toys for Tots collection boxes that will soon be located throughout Doña Ana County and distributing them to needy children.
For U.S. Marine Corps Reserves Toys for Tots of Doña Ana County Coordinator Patty Groth and Assistant Coordinator Joe Montoya and other volunteers, it’s also about working with staff at 44 elementaries in Las Cruces Public Schools, Gadsden Independent School District and Hatch Valley Schools to identify needy children, making sure they have toys for all the other children in that family, sorting the toys by age and gender, fundraising and buying the toys they need that aren’t donated.
Speaking at what she called the Las Cruces Rotary Club’s “time-to-get-going-again luncheon” Oct. 2 at La Posta, Groth said Toys for Tots reached 4,315 children throughout the county in 2018, including the distribution of 7,656 toys, 2,107 books and 1,996 stocking stuffers.
The Las Cruces Rotary Club and Marine Corps League El Perro Diablo Detachment No. 478 partner to run the local Toys for Tots program. With partners like PetSmart, Pic Quik, Mesilla Valley Mall, Discount Self-Storage, Barnes & Noble, Walmart, New Mexico State University, over 150 local businesses, civic groups, and churches that host collection boxes throughout the county, Groth said Toys for Tots hopes to raise thousands of dollars and collect thousands of toys this year.
Toys for Tots will again partner with the NMSU Athletic Department to host a teddy bear toss, to be held during halftime of the Dec. 18 NMSU Aggie-Arkansas-Pine Bluff basketball game at the Pan American Center. Toys for Tots collected 698 stuffed animals for children at last year’s toss.
Groth welcomes volunteers to help shop for, sort and distribute toys.
Also attending the Oct. 2 Rotary Club meeting were NMSU Assistant Athletic Director for Marketing Nicole Sack and LCPS Lead Family School Liaison Yvette Enriquez, who coordinates school counselors at LCPS elementary schools to help distribute toys to needy children.
“I believe that the toys contribute to mental well-being for the children and families,” Groth said. “I personally don’t want any child to think that Santa didn’t come to their house because the child was ‘naughty.’”
Toys for Tots tries to provide “toys that involve personal interactions with family members. In 2018, we purchased many educational ‘how-to’ hobby kits,” she said, including: how to crochet, perform card tricks, juggle, and make paper airplanes.” Toys for Tots also distributes small musical instruments like small piano keyboards, recorders and harmonicas, along with basketballs, footballs, volleyballs and soccer balls to help keep kids physically active.
Groth said the Marine Corps League will place approximately 150 toy collection boxes at local businesses throughout Doña Ana County in 2019. It also needs monetary donations “because we don’t always receive toys that match the ages of the children. We are always in need of gifts for children 8 years and older. We can always use more balls for the older children, age-appropriate books, tool sets for the boys and games,” Groth said.
“The Marine Corps Reserve policy is to provide gifts for all children in a family, from newborn to 18 years of age,” she said. “We know that we are not reaching all of the families in need. The more toys and money we receive, the more children we can help.”
Contact Groth at firstname.lastname@example.org or 575-202-6185, and Joe Montoya at email@example.com or 575-571-7728. Monetary donations may be made online or in care of the Las Cruces Rotary Club, P.O. Box 1912, Las Cruces, NM 88004. Visit toysfortots.org.