CLIFTON PARK — The U.S. Marine Corps Reserve kicked off its annual Capital Region Toys For Tots campaign, hitting the ground running after receiving national recognition for last year’s campaign.
After an extensive review conducted by the Toys for Tots Foundation of more than 800 campaigns across all 50 states, the Capital Region effort was named 2018 Toys for Tots Campaign of the year, a feat that would not have been possible without the tireless efforts of a large number of community sponsors, said Capital Region Toys for Tots coordinator retired Gunnery Sgt. Vinny Roman.
“Without their support, we wouldn’t be able to be as successful as we are,” he said.
This year, Dunkin Donuts, one of the campaign’s major sponsors, as it has in the past, donated $30,000, with $25,000 going toward the purchase of toys and the remaining $5,000 paying for coats. Over the past 11 years, Dunkin’ Donuts has donated $320,000 to the organization.
Part of the Capital Region campaign receiving recognition stems from the local campaign still succeeding while having to search for a new permanent home after being forced to leave the previous location.
Toys For Tots had operated out of a building in Schenectady at 1482 Erie Blvd. That building was owned by Schenectady businessman Ray LeGere, who donated the first-floor space to the organization.
But after that space was rented to a permanent tenant, the campaign moved to a warehouse at 21st Century Park Drive in Clifton Park, directly behind Starpoint Church.
The Toys for Tots collection and distribution area for this region stretches from the Canadian border to just south of the Capital Region. There are more than 400 drop-off locations in that region, including more than 100 Dunkin’ Donuts shops.
The Marine Corps Reserves’ Dunkin’ Toys for Tots Train will begin its holiday trek on Dec. 7.
Law enforcement organizations will also contribute to Toys For Tots this year.
Saratoga County Sheriff Michael Zurlo spearheaded the Convoy of Hope, powered by Northern New York Sheriff’s Coalition and Upstate Transit of Saratoga.
The convoy will travel between Rouses Point and Fort Edward on Dec. 1 to deliver thousands of toys and coats to area children. It will conclude its journey in Fort Edward.
“Each year it gets bigger and better. Convoy For Hope has grown from a small event in the parking lot of my office headquarters, with a few dozen vehicles and 1,400 toys in our first year, to an event that fills the parking lot of the Saratoga Performing Arts Center with over 200 vehicles and 28,000 toys last year,” Zurlo said on Thursday.
The involvement of the various sheriff’s offices in Toys for Tots has helped the campaign overcome the difficulties of getting toys to children who live in the more rural areas of upstate New York, Zurlo said.
Roman pointed out that each year the Toys for Tots campaign is able to bring on more sponsors, mainly local, and get more and more volunteers involved in toy pick-up and delivery. That growth, he said, is what allows the campaign to consistently serve so many children and families.
“We have to be selfless and think about how much more we can do for the community. These are the partnerships that really make this campaign so successful. This is what makes us special, this is what the Capital Region is about,” Roman said.
The Capital Region Toys for Tots program serves Albany, Broome, Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Fulton, Hamilton, Montgomery, Rensselaer, Saratoga, Schenectady, Schoharie, Washington and Warren counties.
Over 200,000 families in New York will be served by this year’s campaign.