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Marines conduct annual Toys for Tots mission

| Friday, Nov. 15, 2013, 1:16 a.m.
Bill Shirley | For The Valley News Dispatch
Gunnery Sergeant, Kevin Geppert, is the local Toys for Tots coordinator with The Marines of Allegheny Valley Detachment 827 in Springdale. The group is again this year accepting donations of new, unwrapped toys for distribution to needy children at Christmas at their hall at 838 Pittsburgh Street in Springdale, November 14, 2013
Bill Shirley | For The Valley News Dispatch
Gunnery Sergeant, Kevin Geppert, is the local Toys for Tots coordinator with the Allegheny Valley Detachment 827 of the Marine Corps League in Springdale. The group is again this year accepting donations of new, unwrapped toys for distribution to needy children at Christmas at their hall at 838 Pittsburgh Street in Springdale, November 14, 2013

Fewer stocking stuffers and more toys for older children are what's needed for this year's Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots drive in Springdale.

The Marines of Allegheny Valley Detachment 827 of the Marine Corps League will be collecting new, unwrapped toys through Dec. 15, said Kevin Geppert, the local Toys for Tots coordinator.

Toys will be distributed to needy families on Dec. 17-20.

This year marks the 66th national Toys for Tots campaign. Last year, about 16 million toys were distributed to 7 million children, said Brian Murray, vice president of operations for the Toys for Tots Foundation.

Local campaigns are held in more than 742 communities across all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and Guam.

“What we're trying to do is put a smile on a child's face at Christmas time that otherwise might not be there,” Murray said. “If parents are struggling to make ends meet, we're there to try to help. Kids should be happy at Christmas.”

Locally, more than 300 families have already signed up to receive toys, Geppert said.

To receive toys, evidence of receiving public assistance, verification of child custody and age, and proof of address are required. The Allegheny Valley Detachment serves children in northeastern Allegheny, northwestern Westmoreland and most of Armstrong counties.

Those who have signed up to receive toys from other groups are disqualified from receiving from Toys for Tots, Geppert said. Toys for Tots gives toys to other programs.

“We try to help as many as possible,” Geppert said.

Each child receives five toys plus stocking stuffers, Geppert said.

Geppert said the group has an “over abundance” of stocking gifts, but needs toys for older children, ages 9 to 12. Most donations are geared to younger children.

Upcoming toy collection efforts in the Alle-Kiski Valley call for filling vehicles with toys.

In Saxonburg, the police department aims to “fill a police cruiser” at South Butler Community Library during the annual Light Up Night Parade on Nov. 29. Toys collected there will go to the Bantam Marine Detachment 743 in Butler.

At Kiski Area North Primary, formerly Allegheny-Hyde Park, a bus will be stuffed from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Dec. 13. These toys go to the Allegheny Valley Detachment.

While toy collections are going slowly this year, Murray expects them to pick up as Christmas draws nearer.

“America refuses to let Toys for Tots fail. If nothing else, Americans are very generous,” he said. “We are cautiously optimistic that 2013 will be a good campaign and that we'll help at least 7 million children as we did last year.”

Brian C. Rittmeyer is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4701 or brittmeyer@tribweb.com.

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