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Toys for Tots gets ready

In years past, families receiving toys and gifts through the Mid South Toys for Tots program living in Oxford had to drive to Batesville each year to pick up donated gifts.

Now, Santa will be a little bit closer for those families who often have a hard time finding transportation to make the 30-mile drive.

A pick-up location for Oxford and Lafayette County residents will be located in Oxford at the National Guard Armory this year.

“We have been steadily trying to reach out farther to be able to help more people in need,” said Assistant Coordinator Lindsey Chrestman.

Organizer Gene Hays said the organization was receiving many applications from Lafayette County, and in some years, more than from other areas. Folks living in Water Valley and New Albany can also take advantage of the Oxford pick-up location, he said.

Distribution of the toys will be on Dec. 17.

The organization serves Benton, Coahoma, DeSoto, Lafayette, Marshall, Panola, Pontotoc, Quitman, Tallahatchie, Tate, Tunica and Union counties. The program is sponsored through the United States Marine Corps Reserve.

Deadline for families to apply to receive toys is Nov. 15. There are several Toys for Tots collection boxes being distributed around Oxford.

This year, Walgreens and Dollar General are corporate sponsors. Donated toys should be new, unwrapped toys for children birth through 14 years old.

Online applications are the only way to apply to receive the toys, Chrestman said.

Monetary donations are also appreciated and can be done online at www.toysfortots.org/default.aspx.

“You can specify that you want your donation to go to the Mid South Toys for Tots and then it will stay here, locally,” Chrestman said.

Hayes said toys for children around 5 to 9 are the most commonly donated, while the very young and the older children have fewer donations.

“They tend to get the least amount,” he said. “We could use more donations for those 12-14 especially.”

Toys that are not accepted include realistic looking weapons and food items.

To apply online to receive gifts for children for Christmas, visit midsouth.toysfortots.org. For more information, email midsouthtoysfortots@yahoo.com.

Christmas Store

While Toys for Tots is a national initiative, folks in Oxford have been running our own Christmas Store for 40 years. For many years, it was just a community venture. Some years, churches ran the Christmas-giving event.

For the last eight, the Rotary Club of Oxford-Ole Miss has held the annual event and will be teaming again with Interfaith Compassion Ministries to provide two toys and two books to more than 650 children from more than 250 families.

The official deadline for Lafayette County residents to sign up for the Christmas Store has past, but organizer Jonathan Maddox said they could take late applications though next week.

What is needed now are volunteers and cash donations, Maddox said.

The group gathers a “wish list” for each child and purchases specific toys or gifts for that child, so monetary donations are crucial for a successful event. It takes about $25,000 to serve all the children eligible in Oxford and Lafayette County.

Volunteers are needed to help shop for the children. They are also needed to help organize the presents for each family, which will be done Dec. 12 at the Stone Center. Distribution day is Dec. 19 and more volunteers are needed for that day as well.

“Donations are always welcome,” Maddox said. “However, we really need people to donate their time as well. This is a great project and one the Rotary is proud to be a part of.”

For more information on volunteering, contact the Rotary Club of Oxford-Ole Miss at oxfordchristmasstore@gmail.com or call 662-259-7150. Monetary donations may be sent to The Christmas Store, P.O. Box 1686, Oxford, MS 38655. Donations also may be made online at www.oxford-olemissrotary.com.

The Details

List of drop-off locations in Oxford

— Abner’s Chicken

— Applebee’s

— Bullseye FM 95.5

— All Oxford Dollar Generals

— Dollar Tree

—Highland Square Apartments

— Hunters Hollow

— Pirate Adventures

— Jacob Law Group

— Ole Miss Marketing Agency

— Oxford Middle School Beta Club

— Lafayette County and Oxford Public Library

— Sneeds ACE Hardware

— Square Books Jr.

— The Beacon

— Tobacco Superstore

— Treehouse Toys

— Walgreens

— Wing Stop

— YMCA