Your help is desperately needed right now, to help children in Lompoc have a good Christmas this year through Toys for Tots, the official program sponsored by the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve. You can help in two ways — volunteer your time, and donate toys.
You can donate toys any time up to Dec. 14 in drop-off boxes located in businesses and offices all over town. However, about volunteering — volunteers are needed now! Lots of helpers are needed next Tuesday and Wednesday, which is when parents will be signing up their children for the program.
A large group of volunteers is needed because it is usually a mob scene, according to local Toys for Tots co-district managers Pat Nuernberg and Brenda Herrera. You will need to be trained beforehand, so if you can help, call Volunteer Coordinator Lynda Nuernberg-Smith at 737-4090. Being bilingual is helpful but is not required.
Don Ramirez is the chairman for the Lompoc effort. He hosted a kickoff meeting for this year’s effort Thursday at the Dorothy Jackson Family Resource Center. This is his 11th year volunteering locally.
“I do it because I like to see the finished project when the kids get the toys,” he said. “I just love to do things for the kids so that they will have a happy Christmas,” Ramirez said.
Ken Ostini, president and CEO of the Lompoc Valley Chamber of Commerce, agreed. He was at the kickoff to lend his support.
“I think it’s a great program,” Ostini said. “The minute I hear the Toys for Tots program is kicking off, I’m there.” The chamber office at 111 South I St. has one of the collection boxes.
Herrera said, “The boxes are all over town, at car dealerships, banks, drug stores — we’re everywhere!”
But don’t get duped by fake boxes. Soledad Kennedy, a Marine, is the Toys for Tots coordinator for Santa Barbara County. She said, “If it’s not a white box, it’s not a Toys for Tots box.”
Look carefully to see if it’s a genuine Toys for Tots box, and place unwrapped toys inside. They must be unwrapped, Hererra said, because all the toys are thoroughly checked for health and safety and are then sorted by volunteers. The donated toys must be new, she explained.
It’s a lot of effort every year to do Toys for Tots, Nuernberg and Herrera said. There are 14 members of the board alone, and Herrera said they could use more board members just to coordinate all the work that needs to be done. Checking, sorting and packing the toys are just some of the many things that must be accomplished each year.
Nuernberg stressed that although it’s a ton of work, “All the people who are working for the Toys for Tots program are volunteers. Nobody gets paid.”
She and her late husband Hal were instrumental in Lompoc getting their own local program. Before they started one here, people had to go to Santa Barbara for Toys for Tots, she said.
Nuernberg and Herrera also said that all the toys donated in Lompoc stay in Lompoc. None go to other communities.
Donors are asked to give toys to both the original Toys for Tots program, which serves children up to 13 years old, and also a new program for kids from 14 to 17.
You may also make a cash donation. It will be used to purchase toys. Make your check payable to Toys for Tots and send it to Brenda Herrera, Attn. Toys for Tots, Dorothy Jackson Family Resource Center, 320 North J St., Lompoc CA 93436.