Toys for Tots comes to town

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Whether it’s a bike, a Barbie doll or an Iron Man toy, some children from needy families in Washington and Greene counties might not get a Christmas toy this year if not for the Toys for Tots drive in Washington.

“A lot of us were brought to tears. (It) was very emotional and eye-opening, seeing the need locally,” said Diane M. Heins, the marketing coordinator for the Wilfred R. Cameron Wellness Center.

Heins, along with 12 other employees and volunteers, helped to unload and sort toys at Washington Alliance Church in Washington last week to get them ready for delivery.

The U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Program is directed by the commander of the Marine Forces Reserve, with the assistance of his staff, from the Marine Forces Reserve Headquarters in New Orleans, La. According to its website, the charity is funded by the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation headquartered in Quantico, Va.

“Local campaigns are conducted annually in over 700 communities covering all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico,” the website states. “One individual, either a Marine, member of a Marine Corps League Detachment, or member of a local community organization, is designated the Toys for Tots Coordinator for that community.”

Michael V. Pallesco of Washington is the coordinator for the Washington-Greene County Toys for Tots.

“This year, we collected roughly 40,000 toys,” Pallesco said, “A Toys for Tots campaign has been in Washington County for 11 years. It was started by my father, Ralph Pallesco.”

Pallesco’s father, Ralph, a former Marine and founder of the Marine Corps League of Washington County, passed away earlier this year.

“Last year, we helped roughly 5,000 children in Washington and Greene counties. Along with toys, the members of Washington Alliance Church distribute food to our needy families,” Pallesco continued.

As the employees from the Wilfred R. Cameron Wellness Center and other volunteers helped Pallesco last week with the toy drive, a couple of the volunteers noticed they had run out of donated bicycles before filling requests from three girls. After someone suggested posting about the need on Facebook, Heins said the volunteers had three new bikes in 90 minutes.

“This was an awesome experience, and I know our employees look forward to volunteering their time again next year,” Heins said.

Next year, Pallesco said he hopes to have more volunteers and drop-off locations.

“My favorite part of the campaign is getting together with everyone and distributing the toys to families,” he said, “but my least favorite part of the campaign is seeing the hopeless faces of some the needy people we are trying to help. You hope with each family you can bring a little joy each year.”

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