Coolidge MCJROTC

Cadets Seth Ausbern, Cesar Jimenez, Gabriel Romo and Fernando Vargas stand at their post outside Walmart on Friday, the final day of the Coolidge High School Marine Corps JROTC’s holiday drive for Toys for Tots. Close to 40 students took turns at the post from Wednesday through Friday the past two weeks, collecting hundreds of dollars worth of toys and cash that will be delivered to local children who might not otherwise have many toys this Christmas.

CASA GRANDE — With a goal of making the holiday season merry and bright for area children, several organizations and volunteers are busy collecting toys for those in need.

Those who wish to help will find several area toy collection efforts listed below.

Big Tyme Entertainment

Big Tyme Entertainment is conducting its 17th annual Christmas toy drive event on Saturday to collect toys and gifts for children in need.

Donations of new toys may be dropped off at Precise Motor Vehicle Services, 241 W. Cottonwood Lane in Casa Grande, between noon and 4 p.m. that day.

Donations of any type of new toy, bikes, electronics and other items are needed “to make a difference and help kids who will go without this Christmas,” an announcement about the toy drive said.

The annual toy drive was started several years ago by Casa Grande resident Andy Salazar, an area DJ. Dozens of volunteers help with collection and distribution efforts for the event every year.

Salazar said the effort aims to ensure that all kids receive a gift for Christmas.

Toys will be distributed later in December. Last year’s toy distribution event served about 2,000 children.

Salvation Army

The Salvation Army Casa Grande Corps collects thousands of toys and gifts for area children during the holidays.

Area organizations and volunteers often help contribute to the cause.

Last year, the Salvation Army distributed gifts to about 1,000 children during an event at its church on Center Avenue. Families requesting Christmas presents from Salvation Army sign up in October and must meet income requirements.

Toys for Tots

Through mid-December, local Toys for Tots volunteers will collect toy donations in Coolidge and Casa Grande for those in need.

“The toys we collect stay within the community we collect them from,” said Kristina Hyland, a volunteer with the effort.

The local Marine Corps League Toys for Tots effort collects toys in person at donation drives. Businesses and other organizations also help with the effort by placing boxes or totes for donations in their establishments.

Volunteers collecting new toys this year will be stationed:

  • From 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays through Dec. 13 in front of Walmart in Coolidge, 1695 N. Arizona Blvd.
  • From 10 to 4:30 p.m. in front of Walmart in Casa Grande, 1741 E. Florence Blvd., on Saturdays and Sundays through Dec. 13.

“So far we have collected over a truckload of toys for the county,” Hyland said. “We still need to sort and count the toys.”

Toys will be distributed to qualified children on Dec. 23. Recipients are chosen based on an application process.

“Community organizations, social service programs and churches reach out to us to provide us with a list of families that they have identified as needing assistance. We provide them with an application to identify how many toys they may need,” Hyland said.

Applications from those requesting gifts will be accepted this Saturday and Sunday.

“Toys for Tots is such an amazing program,” Hyland said.

AJPD

This year, the annual Apache Junction toy drive is asking for a little help from the community, a press release from the department said.

“In the past the AJPD has worked with the W. Steven Martin 911 Toy Drive to supplement some of the toys for the identified children in our community. According to fine folks at the 911 Toy Drive, there has been a dramatic decrease in donations this year,” the press release said. “In typical 2020 fashion there have been some challenges making it difficult for us to get enough toys to meet the need.”

Health concerns stemming from COVID-19 and the nationwide scrutiny of police are some of the contributing factors, the press release said.

The department has conducted the toy drive for 30 years. Some of the toys distributed by AJPD are the only gifts children receive.

The toy drive also provides positive interaction between the department and the community and builds trust.

“This is an incredible and longstanding tradition here in Apache Junction and we intend to keep it going,” the press release said.

Donations of new toys are being accepted for children ranging in age from newborn to 15.

Among the popular items this year, according to the department, are bikes, scooters, board games, deodorant, body wash packs, makeup and hair supplies such as blow dryers, curling irons, straighteners. Kids also enjoy art kits, skateboards and remote control cars and trucks.

Among the items not accepted this year are stuffed animals, clothing and used items.

Donations will be accepted at the Apache Junction Police Department up to Dec. 16.

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Melissa St. Aude is the Arts & Entertainment editor at PinalCentral. She can be reached at mstaude@pinalcentral.com.