Going away from the US Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots program, Escalon Consolidated Fire Protection District and the Escalon American Legion are joining together this year to host a local toy collection and distribution.
The two agencies have collaborated for many years in the project but it has always been under the auspices of Toys for Tots. This year, said fire department Battalion Chief Terry Pinheiro, they are changing that up.
“The first two or three years, the Marine Corps was active in it but since then they haven’t really been in the picture at all,” Pinheiro said, noting that the fire department has continued to put out the official ‘Toys for Tots’ logo boxes and that was almost the extent the Corps’ involvement.
He added that last year, changes in the Marine Corps program saw some of the locally collected toys possibly leaving the community for distribution elsewhere and possibly warehousing for future years. Pinheiro said when learning that, the fire department and Legion members agreed they want to make sure donations made locally stay here.
“It’s the exact same process,” Pinheiro said of how the toy distribution program will work, with residents in need signing up in advance and providing information about the age of the children and whether they are a boy or a girl. Those signing up must live in the Escalon fire district boundaries.
“Sign up is at the fire station on Saturday, Dec. 5 from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m.,” Pinheiro said. “Giveaway day will be Thursday, Dec. 17 starting at 10 a.m. and running until completion.”
The gift bags will be distributed at the firehouse on Coley Avenue as well on that Thursday the week before Christmas.
This year, the program will be called the Escalon Fire Christmas Toy Drive and the collection boxes have already been placed in multiple locations around the community.
New, unwrapped toys can be donated and are needed for a variety of ages, from birth up to young teens.
Collection boxes are available at Shorty’s, Big Boy Market, D’Boni’s Pizza, The Learning Tree Preschool, Escalon City Hall, Bank of the West, El Portal Middle School, Vineyard Pharmacy, Main Street Market, Oak Valley Community Bank, BBVA Bank, Escalon Fire Station, Pizza Plus, Christian Reformed Church, Escalon Covenant Church, Escalon Premier Brands, Dent Elementary, American Legion Hall, Dollar Tree and Dollar General.
The new collection boxes have the Escalon Fire Department and Escalon American Legion Post logo on them, said Pinheiro.