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Toy gatherers gear up for Christmas rush

Once again, Toys for Tots is running strong in Citrus.

Last year, more than 12,000 toys were collected and distributed in the county. And the organization already has signed up a record number of local sponsors this year.

But there's room for more sponsors and more donated toys.

If you're able to help, this weekend would be a perfect time.

The Toys for Tots team will gather outside the Wal-Mart Supercenter west of Inverness from 10:30 a.m. until dark Saturday and from noon until dark Sunday collecting new, unwrapped toys.

Toys for Tots is a nationwide program run by the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve. The program collects new, unwrapped toys and distributes them as holiday gifts to needy children in the community in which the campaign is conducted.

Last year, the Marine Corps fulfilled the holiday hopes and dreams of 7.5-million needy children, said Paul Pilny, a Citrus organizer. He said that since 1947, more than 166-million kids have been helped.

The Toys for Tots Foundation has shipped more than $5,000 worth of toys to Citrus County, Pilny said. These toys were donated by corporate Toys for Tots sponsors nationwide and have already been distributed to local social service agencies.

Only qualified residents of Citrus County will receive these toys. In Citrus, the vast majority of toys collected are distributed through the Family Resource Center, the Salvation Army, Citrus United Basket and Grandparents Raising Grandchildren.

These groups maintain a database of needy children and are responsible for toy distribution, Pilny said.

A host of small business and civic groups have made plans for toy collection. Boxes for toy dropoffs are scattered throughout the county.

Again, all donated toys must be new and unwrapped. And all toys and money collected in Citrus stay in Citrus.

The Salvation Army (621-5532) serves children younger than 13. For information about the Family Resource Center, call 344-1001. Citrus United Basket (344-2242) serves all ages, including teens. For information about Grandparents Raising Grandchildren, call Jeanie Reid at 560-0370.

The greatest need is for toys for children younger than 3 and teenagers, Pilny said.

For information, call Pilny at 344-2656.


Where to give

The Toys for Tots team will be at the Wal-Mart Supercenter west of Inverness from 10:30 a.m. until dark Saturday and from noon until dark Sunday.