It was 10 a.m. on the last Monday before Christmas 2021, when Keith Covey pulled his pick-up truck and trailer to the entrance of the YMCA of Pulaski County. The pick-up truck’s bed was filled to the brim with large cardboard boxes, each containing about 45 toys and a dozen smaller items meant to be “stocking stuffers.” The trailer attached to the rear of his truck carried eight brand new bicycles.
This delivery marked the third time this season that Covey had brought a load of presents to the YMCA for the Marine Corps Toys for Tots Christmas campaign. Covey is a member of the Marine Corps, whose active service career spanned from 1978 to 1982.
Covey and other members of Marine Corps League 1190 start gathering toys for Christmas in October. Covey is responsible for collecting presents in Pulaski County and he estimates that 90 percent of what he collects ends up being distributed here.
This marks the third year that Covey has volunteered for the duty of delivering presents, so that the children of the economically challenged in Pulaski County can find something under their Christmas trees.
“It’s not as much work as you might think,” Covey said of his Toys for Tots duties. “I typically spend maybe two hours on a Friday afternoon and three or four hours on a Saturday morning. It’s like anything else. If you stay on top of it, it’s easy.”
When asked why he does it, Covey coyly responded, “Somebody’s got to do it.” Then added, “I didn’t have a lot when I was growing up … I had plenty, but I didn’t have as much as others and I just didn’t like the thought of a kid waking up and not having nothing there.”
Much of what he collects gets distributed at the Christmas Store in Dublin, where individuals sign up in advance to be a part of the gift give away. After the Christmas Store stops taking applications, Covey takes more toys to the YMCA, as well as the Pulaski County Social Services office.
This is the second year that the Marine Corps Toys for Tots program has added the YMCA of Pulaski County to their list of gift recipients.
According to Brandon Smith of the “Y,” about a dozen families have already taken advantage of the Marine Corps Toys for Tots program. So many gifts have arrived, that a racquet ball court had to be temporarily repurposed as a storage room for the toys. The racquet ball court has since been dubbed “Santa’s Workshop.”
“If this isn’t Santa’s workshop, I don’t know what is,” Smith quipped.
One doesn’t need to be a member of the YMCA to take advantage of these freely distributed Christmas gifts, but there are some rules.
“The only thing they have to do is show an ID,” said the YMCA’s Holly Whipp. “It’s not income based. They just fill out the sign-in sheet with their names, addresses and the names and ages of their children. We ask for email just because if there’s other community type events, we’ll be able to send out email notification and mail out flyers.”
Parents who come to “shop” for Toys for Tots gifts are asked to take only two toys and a stocking stuffer or a book or stuffed animal for each of their children. Parents and guardians are also asked to “shop” only once per season.
There is much variety in the toys and bicycles that fill the newly dubbed Santa’s Workshop room, including dolls, skateboards, radio controlled cars, balls of most every description and some offbeat gifts like Tie Died Slimy Glops.
“These toys are appropriate for teens to toddlers,” said Covey, who noted that, in addition to individual donations, corporate contributions added quite a lot to the Marine Corps Toys for Tots gift giving program.
“James Hardie is a huge contributor,” said Covey. “I collected nine boxes and seven bicycles from them just the other day.”
Covey also noted the generous contributions given to Toys for Tots by the local Dollar General Store and King’s Tire.
After unloading his presents at the YMCA, Covey was headed to Pulaski’s Social Services office with a similar sized shipment of toys and bikes. All told, the Toys for Tots program collects and distributes an eye-popping number of presents.
“This year is typical,” said Covey. “Folks in Pulaski County are very generous. They truly are.”
Jess Woods, Executive Director of the YMCA, couldn’t be happier about it being included in the Marine Corps Toys for Tots gift giving program.
“It’s just such a privilege for us to do this,” said Woods. “We really appreciate it. It makes a big difference to our families.”
Free Christmas Gifts courtesy of the Marine Corps Toys for Tots program will be available at the YMCA of Pulaski County from 9 a.m. till 6 p.m. this Wednesday and Thursday and additionally on Friday (Christmas Eve) from 8 a.m. till noon.
By WILLIAM PAINE, For The Patriot
Top photo: Keith Covey drops off another big load of gifts at the Pulaski County YMCA for the Marine Corps Toys for Tots program. (William Paine/For The Patriot)