U.S. Marines representing the Toys for Tots program said they definitely wanted to handle the annual Eureka pickup because it's such a good turnout of toys and community citizens for the donation send-off. Three Marines on Friday picked up 1,161 toys from The Wallach House Antiques and Home Furnishings. That's more than this year's goal of 1,000, and definitely better than last year's total of 787 items.
Sgt. Gavin Lewis of the U.S. Marines said they started picking up toys in mid-November. "It's going great, and we're just getting to the busy locations of gas stations and businesses, like what's happening in Eureka," he said.
The haul from Eureka donations, which included some bicycles, filled the entire truck the Marines brought.
"This is the best year we've ever had, and we certainly appreciate receiving the assistance of three Marines," said Mary Wallach, owner of The Wallach House. "We're so thankful for everyone's donations. This is my favorite charity of the year."
Wallach immediately set a new goal of 1,500 items for next year's Toys for Tots drive, but Sgt. Mgr. Brian Fogarty good-naturedly told the group they "would expect 1,600."
Read coverage from the Toys for Tots initiative in 2010 and 2011:
"You can definitely tell we've initiated a significant Toys for Tots project here in Eureka," said Laurie Price, of The Wallach House.
Brian Lunt, assistant vice president of Rockwood Bank, helped load up the toys Friday. He said one of the bank's customers donated toys from this priviate Star Wars collection. The customer is David Dames, who brought in 251 Star Wars toys total.
Lewis said two areas to perhaps consider for next year are donations for infants and teenagers, because they have a tough time servicing those needs. He said they used to collect items for teens up to 18 years old, but now go to 16 years old. "If not enough cash is donated, we also can't go out and buy what would be needed to make up for the two opposite ends of the age spectrum," he said.