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Toys for Tots Bring Gifts and Joy to Many

12/16/2011, 1:49 p.m.

For more than 60 years, the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation has answered the call of duty by delivering a message of hope and happiness in the form of new toys for children during the Christmas holiday season. With many Americans continuing to face financial challenges, Toys for Tots offers real help.

"As a grandparent raising my 1-year-old granddaughter, Toys for Tots is helpful to parents that don't have a lot," said Marlo Armstrong, 39, of Southeast. "This is my first time ever using Toys for Tots because we're in bad economic conditions."

Armstrong joined hundreds of District families lined outside of the D.C. Armory in Southeast to receive a donation that will add just a little more joy for their children at home. With hundreds of toys distributed, the Foundation added a second day for families to receive a donation.

"I'm a single mother of a 10-year-old daughter and it's hard times right now and this [Toys for Tots] is a blessing," a woman who did not want to give her name said. "Oh, I'm very grateful for the program. Before I signed up, I was scared because I have a job and I thought it was for people that [are] low income or had no job."

Toys for Tots was started in 1947 in Los Angeles by a group of United States Marine Reservists. The group collected and distributed 5,000 new and used toys to needy children during the first year and the tradition of giving carries on today as the foundation reaches approximately 500 communities in the United States. Since 1980, the foundation has collected and distributes only new toys. According to the Marine Toys for Tots website, in 2010, the Marines distributed 16.7 million donated toys to more than 7.2 million children who might not have otherwise experienced the magic of the holiday season.