Close to five dozen families have been signed up for the annual Toys for Tots effort, organized through the Escalon Fire Department as part of the Marine Corps Reserve program.
“Sign ups went fine, they were held on Dec. 3,” explained Escalon Fire Department Battalion Chief Terry Pinheiro.
Donation boxes for the toy drive have also been placed in the community, he said.
Twenty locations are serving as collection sites, including: Big Boy Market, D’Boni’s Pizza, Mountain Mike’s Pizza, Learning Tree Preschool, Escalon City Hall, Bank of the West, El Portal Middle School, Vintage Pharmacy, Main Street Market, Oak Valley Bank, BBVA Bank, Ace Hardware, Escalon Fire Station 1, Pizza Plus, Escalon Christian Reformed Church, Trinity Church, Escalon Premier Brands (main office), Emil’s Liquors, Dent Elementary School and The Big Dipper.
“The final opportunity to donate will be Friday, Dec. 19,” Pinheiro added.
The distribution of toys to families that signed up for the program will be staged at the firehouse on Coley Avenue starting at 10 a.m. on Monday, Dec. 22.
Pinheiro said he isn’t sure of the exact number of children signed up, but there are a total of 56 families, with a wide range of ages for youngsters in need of gifts.
The collection boxes around the community will be picked up at the end of the business day on Dec. 19 so between now and then, local residents are asked to donate new, unwrapped toys for the effort.
“We need for all age groups, with a priority on children from five to 10- or 12-years-old,” Pinheiro explained. “We also go up, typically we have a need for some gifts for boys and girls that are 14, 15-years-old.”
Families in the area that signed up will come to the firehouse to receive the items, with many needing gifts for a few children in the family.
A large coordinated volunteer effort including police, fire, VFW members and community helpers gathers to sort and bag up the items by age and gender, making the distribution a smooth process.
“In years past, we have been increasingly short on gifts, all donations are much appreciated,” Pinheiro said.