The folks from Loudoun County Toys for Tots never formally ask for donations. But it doesn’t seem they need to.
As of Tuesday, three days before Christmas, the foundation had collected more than 21,000 bicycles, books and other toys throughout the holiday season. The gifts will be distributed this week to thousands of boys and girls in Loudoun County and the Shenandoah Valley.
“And we haven’t finished counting,” Rita Sartori, assistant coordinator at Loudoun County Toys for Tots, said Tuesday.
On average, Loudouners donate about 20,000 toys each year to the gift campaign, which is run by the Loudoun County Detachment of the Marine Corps League. Typically, donations would just go to children within the county, but residents’ overwhelming generosity results in the donation of more toys than there are local children qualified to receive gifts. So hundreds of the gifts are delivered to children in the Winchester area, which has more children from low-income families than their community can support.
“I’m very grateful that we have the ability to do this in our community,” Sartori said. “Because otherwise there are children and families who would not be having a very joyful Christmas.”
The toy drive is really a seven-month effort. By late summer, the foundation begins its search for available, and ideally free, warehouse space. And each year, someone comes through. This year, Merritt Properties LLC welcomed the Toys for Tots crew to work out of a 12,687-square-foot warehouse in Ashburn.
Signs of the massive toy drive can be seen throughout Loudoun by November, with donation boxes set up at numerous businesses. The majority of the donated gifts are dropped off in those boxes, but then there are countless fundraisers and toy drives put into motion at local schools and by thoughtful individuals to ensure as many children as possible have presents to open this season.
One boy, 13-year-old Joseph Newcomer of Leesburg, invites people into his home to see his extravagant train exhibit. The cost of entry is, of course, a toy for the Toys for Tots Foundation. Matthew started taking up his collection in 2006, when he was 4 years old, doing odd jobs around the house to help pay for the toys. Now, he collects between 600 and 1,000 toys each November and December, according to his father Joe Newcomer.
There are a lot of stories like that, of Loudoun residents, businesses and school communities going above and beyond to take care of those less fortunate. Sartori specifically mentioned Wegmans and Giant grocery stores in Leesburg, which set out donation boxes and also gave the foundation gift cards to purchase refreshments for the army of 366 volunteers.
“We never approach anyone to give us anything, but they have been very kind,” she said. “So many have been good to us. This is a joint effort between members of the community, businesses, organizations and, of course the volunteers—with the volunteers we couldn’t do it.”