Picture Christmas morning.
A majestic evergreen stands in the corner of a room glistening with lights and ornaments in the early morning stillness. Glimpses of snow covered lawns and the occasional drifting snowflake peek through the windows.
A child creeps quietly from a bedroom, careful not to wake still sleeping parents. The only sound to break the peaceful hush is the gentle rustle of clothing brushing gently across the floor.
The child peeks tentatively around into the room. Christmas lights reflect in wide eyes and cast a shifting kaleidoscope of light on innocent features in the pre-dawn gloom.
The child looks expectantly toward the stately tree. Eyes wander to glimpse what a visitors in the night may have brought, and the child and sees...
The magic seeps from the room, while a disappointed child stifles tears.
This Christmas, the Gen. J.H. Pendleton Detachment of the Marine Corps League is working to ensure Christmas mornings don't end this way through its annual Toys for Tots program.
Since 1982, the detachment has helped provide gifts for more than 16,700 Warren County children through the program. In 2011 alone, the program helped more than 750 children, but they need the communities help to do it.
"Our program is run 100 percent by volunteers who dedicate their time and efforts to help those less fortunate," a letter from Michael Madigan, chairman for the detachment's program, said. "Any incurred expense such as postage, advertising, toy delivery and pick-up are either donated or absorbed by our volunteer. There are no payroll or overhead expenses deducted and all funds received in Warren County stay in Warren County. Local economic conditions have not improved much over the past year, so we expect to have even more families requesting assistance."
This year, the program registered more than 125 families at their first sign-up event in October. One more sign-up event is scheduled for Nov. 23 and 24, at the Warren Mall. Registrations will be accepted between noon and 5 p.m. for gifts for children under 16 whose parents reside in Warren County. Registrants must have the child's Social Security or Access cards available at the sign-up. Children's registrations will only be accepted at the sign-up event. Applications by phone or e-mail will not be accepted.
According to Karen Madigan, local coordinating officer for Toys for Tots, gift donations can be dropped off at any local drop-off location.
This year, Madigan said, the program is especially in need of baby, toddler and teen hats and gloves, shower products, craft kits, coloring books and crayons, watches, jewelry, children and teen socks and slippers and baby products such as bath products, lotions, baby wipes and toys. Madigan asked individuals donating to the program not to give stuffed animals. All toy donations must be new, unwrapped toys.
The program also accepts monetary donations. According to Madigan, monetary donations can be mailed to the J. H. Pendleton Detachment. Checks should be made out to Warren County Toys for Tots to ensure funds stay within Warren County. Checks sent to the national program may not be disbursed back to the county they were sent from.
Madigan said the program currently has volunteers to pack toys. However, she said that groups looking for community service projects, such as scouting groups, are welcome to help prepare for the two toy pick-up dates on Dec. 8 and 15 .
There are also opportunities for businesses to lend a hand by participating in the program as a toy drop-off location.
Those wishing to volunteer, serve as a drop-off location or have questions about the program, can contact the J. H. Pendleton Detachment at 723-9413 or online by going to www.toysfortots.com and following the directions on the site to the local program's website.
Those wishing to mail a monetary donation can send checks to J. H. Pendleton Detachment Toys for Tots, 2355 Jackson Ave., Warren.
Toy drop-off locations include:
Warren: Ace Hardware, Big Lots, Crossett, Inc., Ed Shults of Warren, Gaughn's Drug Store, Howe's True Value, Little Caesar's Pizza, Midtown Motors, Northwest Savings Bank on Second Avenue, Suppa's Service Center, Verizon Wireless Zone at the Wal-Mart Plaza, Veteran's Affairs at the Warren County Courthouse, Warren Times Observer, Wood Forrest Bank in Walmart and Mountain Laurel Federal Credit Union.
Youngsville: Dick's Service Center, Dollar General and Hartland Homes.
Sheffield: Presents and Posies, and Tops Grocery Store.