Following the Toy: An Inside Look at Toys for Tots 2021

It’s the season of giving, and we have an inside look at one way you could give to someone in need and spread holiday cheer this month

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NBC 7 and Telemundo 20 are joining forces with the U.S. Marine Corps and The UPS Store to collect toys for kids in need this holiday, as part of Toys for Tots. You may have seen the tall, white and red cardboard bins at drop-off locations before, but how does it work?

NBC 7’s Dana Williams went through the process step-by-step, from buying the toy to watching it be sorted.

Here’s how it works:
1. First, start by picking out what kind of toy you would like to donate. It must be new and unwrapped, so no need to tie a ribbon on it! According to the Marine Toys for Tots website, there is a greater need for donations with preteens and teenagers in mind. Some suggestions for this group include sporting goods, board games and remote-controlled cars. Find more here.

2. Next, it is time to find a drop-off location for your toy. The UPS Store throughout San Diego County has dozens of participating locations, from Vista to Otay Mesa, that you are able to donate at. You’ll walk in, find the red and white cardboard bin, then set your toy inside. Just like that, your part is complete.

3. From here, the process is a bit more behind-the-scenes. Santa’s helpers, a mix of Marines and volunteers, sort each item and determine what group of kids would enjoy that specific toy the most. All donated items are kept in large warehouses with stuffed animals, bicycles and board games filling up bin after bin. According to the Miramar-based Toys for Tots Coordinator, Sgt. Phillip Santoro, they have seen more donations than usual this year, especially after the program was slowed down due to COVID-19 in 2020.

4. Once the toys are sorted into specific piles, they are distributed to community organizations in the area that give the items to families in need. More than 604-million toys have found homes this way, according to the Marine Toys for Tots website.

Toys are typically collected from mid-November to mid-December, so there is still time to make a difference this holiday season. NBC 7 and Telemundo 20 are hosting a drive-thru event on Friday, Dec. 3 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Walmart on Murphy Canyon Road. Simply bring a toy, drive up, drop it off and you are done.

If you would like to learn how to get involved in other ways, click here for details on how to help.

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