A fenced-in military complex off Route 10 became one of Santa’s busiest workshops in central Connecticut on Tuesday.
The Naval Reserve Operations Center is ground zero for the Toys For Tots chapter that serves Litchfield and Hartford counties. By Christmas, the Plainville unit will have given out about 60,000 toys in the annual holiday toy drive started in 1947 by the Marine Corps Reserves.
Since its start, the program has given out more than 530 million toys to more than 244 million children, according to the Toys For Tots website.
Plainville is doing its part this year, helping more than 1,000 families.
“The toys are going to 194 organizations to distribute to families,” Marine Staff Sgt. Ashley Dee, the event leader, said of this year’s drive, his third and the first one he has led.
As he looked out Tuesday in the large storage room, he could see dozens of people scurrying around, black plastic bags in hand, assembling specific orders for families.
Volunteers flitted from pile to pile of new unwrapped toys, each grouping specific for a gender and age range.
There were thousands of toys already before United Technologies Corp. arrived with more, but the ones the company purchased were for young teens, a demographic that needed more toys in its pile.
“We went out shopping this morning with UTC,” Dee said. “We really needed things for the older kids.”
This is the 37th year UTC has donated toys to this drove, said Randy Bumps, a UTC senior corporate responsibility director as he watching company volunteers buzz about.
“We encourage community involvement,” Bumps said. Toys For Tots records bear that out. UTC has donated more than 500,000 toys since 1980.
In addition to giving toys to social organizations for their clients, the Plainville chapter gave toys this weekend to 128 families that needed help but were not on the distribution lists of any agency, Dee said.
From what Dee and others see, the hot toy this Christmas is WowWee Fingerlings, a finger-hugging, robotic monkey.
Husband and wife civilian volunteers Steve and Sue Deguzis of Bristol were back this years helping for their 11th year.
Sue Deguzus said donations are steady but a little down from last year. She wondered if the need for helping hurricance-ravaged Puerto Rico and Texas might be the cause
Donations are down in the Toys For Tots collection boxes that have been in businesses and stores since November.. People can buy new toys to put, unwrapped, in these boxes or check out Toys For Tots website to learn how to donate money and volunteer.
“Its hard to say exactly. People are really generous. I know we’ll have enough by Christmas,” she said.