Demand up, donations down for Roanoke-area toy drives

Published: Nov. 27, 2020 at 1:14 AM EST
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - Call it Santa’s workshop, by way of Southwest Virginia.

Every year, the Marine Corps Reserve in Roanoke County packs a warehouse full of toys for families in need, part of its annual Toys for Tots drive. The goal is to get every kid two or three presents under the Christmas tree.

Making that happen this year has been a little different.

“So last year we had about 700 families, 2,800 children, and that was our final number,” said Capt. Alex Coffiey, who helps organize the toy drive. “This year, we’re over 1,000 families, over 3,000 children, and we haven’t reached December yet.”

Coffiey says the pandemic, and associated economic downturn, has meant demand is up and donations are down.

“A lot of the comments that we’ve had this year are different from years past, and a lot of them this year are ‘I’ve been a donor to Toys for Tots for the last 10 years, and for the first time this year we’re going to have to reach out and ask for help,’” he said.

The Marine Corps Reserve isn’t the only one seeing this trend. Other toy drives in our area, including one being put on by the Junior League of the Roanoke Valley, have seen a similar pattern.

Both groups say on top of having more families needing help, there are fewer companies stepping up to partner up for the toy drives.

“We’ve seen a decrease in our sponsorships this year, and there’s been a national bike shortage and a toy shortage, and that’s really negatively impacting us this year,” said Coffiey.

The Marine Reserve is responding by hitting the pavement, and getting the word out. There are more donation boxes set up around Roanoke, and for the first time, the group will be out on Black Friday, at Ollie’s Valley View, collecting donations in person.

It’s more work, but says 1st Sgt. Keith Kesterson, it’s worth it.

“It’s in our bloodline. It’s in our corps values of honor, courage and commitment, and how we serve the community,” he said.

The Marine Corps Reserve will be holding in-person toy drives November 27 at Ollie’s Valley View, and December 6 at the Salem Lowe’s, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. The Corps also has drop boxes set up at more than a dozen locations. A complete list can be found on their website

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