ELKHART — At its 244th birthday party, the Marine Corps 1397 celebrated more than just its own organization.

Each Marine was asked to bring a new unwrapped toy for the organizations’ Toys for Tots program.

The toys are just a few that will be donated this holiday season.

Last year the Elkhart Area Marines of the Marine Corps League Detachment 1397 collected books, toys and stocking stuffers which were distributed to 2,287 children in the county.

“For the size of our county, I think that’s a big number,” said Elkhart County Toys for Tots Coordinator Wes Young. “We’re able to do that because of the generosity of Elkhart County people who give toys and give monies.”

In Elkhart County, 23 volunteers deliver 320 boxes to various locations for generous individuals to drop off new and unwrapped toys for children during the holiday season.

“It’s to make sure that every child at Christmas gets a gift,” said Young.

Local businesses including KemKrest, Clayton Homes and Dexter Axle have donated and continue to donate to the program monetarily every year, ensuring that children of all ages can get a toy on Christmas Day.

“We spend thousands of dollars on toys and we couldn’t do that if it weren’t for those employees making those donations to us,” Young said. Donations made by check are tax-deductible with documentation made available in January.

About 97 percent of the Toys for Tots donations go directly toward the purchase of toys for unrepresented age brackets in the program, Young said.

“We don’t spend money unless we have to spend money,” he said, adding that the entire Toys for Tots program is volunteer-run, so overhead remains low.

Now at a new location, Toys for Tots volunteers will gather all the boxes around the county filled with toys and drop them off at ObeCo in Elkhart (the old Ivy Tech building) for sorting and distribution on Dec. 7.

That same day WNDU will host a Toy-A-Thon at the Concord Mall from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m.

One of the best parts about the Elkhart County Toys for Tots program, according to Young is that all the toys stay within the county.

Meanwhile, nationwide there are roughly 750 different locations in the U. S. that collect toys, according to local organizers.

Families that would benefit from the program may contact the Salvation Army in Goshen or Elkhart, or the Family Christian Development Center in Nappanee to get signed up.

For more information, visit https://elkhart-in.toysfortots.org/.

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