WEST CHESTER (December 9, 2020) – Across Chester County, Pennsylvania, and the nation, volunteers supporting Toys for Tots are preparing for the final push in a holiday season that has been challenged by the coronavirus pandemic.

But even as the pandemic has complicated the traditional ways of collecting donations, volunteers say the spirit of generosity continues to run strong, even as many are already struggling.

For Chester County Toys for Tots Coordinator Jeffrey Smith, this year has been a trial by fire. He volunteered to take on the roll in January when he discovered that the previous coordinator had retired in 2018 and there wasn’t an official Toys for Tots Campaign running in the County.

“While the learning curve to successfully collect and distribute thousands of toys has been steep, I could not be more proud of how the people in the area we serve have stepped up to help those in need,” Smith said.

He thanked the businesses, school districts, corporate sponsors, organizations, charities, and restaurants that, despite their own struggles, found ways to continue supporting the children of Chester County.

Smith and his team of volunteers adopted creative methods to safely collect toys during the pandemic, such as virtual toy drives and contactless drive-through, drop-off events, like the one held this past weekend at Good Will Fire Company.

They have also found a strong ally in state-Senator Elect Carolyn Comitta, who along with her staff, who have championed support for the toy drive.

“There are more families in need this year. There are more challenges to overcome,” said Comitta, who will officially be sworn in as state Senator for the 19th District on January 5, said.  “But every child deserves to get a toy for the holidays. And everyone who supports and safely participates in Toys for Tots this year feels that gratitude, appreciation, and holiday spirit a little more deeply. Thank you to all those working to make the holiday season bright for all our Chester County families.”

Chester County Toys for Tots serves all of Chester County, as well as a small portion of Montgomery County centered on Norristown that is not covered by another campaign.

According to Smith, the campaign is pushing hard in its final days to gather toys for slightly over 9,800 children this year, including 30 nonprofits and 278 families.

Most collection bins will be picked up by tomorrow or Friday, December 11.  For a full list of drop-off locations visit: https://chester-county-pa.toysfortots.org/local-coordinator-sites/lco-sites/donate-toys.aspx

Many toys are still needed for Chester County families, especially for younger children in the 0-2 age range. In addition, donations can be made online at https://chester-county-pa.toysfortots.org/local-coordinator-sites/lco-sites/donate-toys.aspx where supporters can contribute funds directly or even pick out toys virtually to purchase and donate.

Once the collection portion of the drive is complete, sorting and delivery operations commence.  This weekend, volunteers will begin sorting toys and assembling family bags pick up the following weekend. Volunteer activities continue through December 22, as more than a dozen separate volunteer teams work diligently to ensure the right toys get to the right children. All of the operations must be planned, organized, and conducted in a way that follows COVID-19 health and safety protocols, offering the maximum protection for both the volunteers and those they interact with.

Comitta and her staff plan to assist in a family drop-off event on December 18.

“There is still work to do and we plan to do it safely.,” Comitta said. “Toys for Tots still needs toys and they still need help. You can donate safely, and you can support this cause safely.”

The Marine Toys for Tots Foundation has been collecting and delivering toys to children in which the Campaign is conducted for over 70 years – even during pandemics. The program is run by the United States Marine Corps Reserve Foundation. The Chester County campaign has made significant adjustments to protect the health of our donors, applicants, and volunteers.

If you are interested in volunteering, contact chester.county.pa@toysfortots.org.