WHITEHALL -- A year ago, on a morning they expected 158 children to pick up donated toys, volunteers in the Whitehall Toys for Tots campaign provided gifts for all those children – and 112 more.
“We had a lot of unexpected kids show up, and we were able to provide toys for all of them,” said Jim Lafayette, who has coordinated Whitehall American Legion Post 83’s annual toy drive for many years. “But you know those kids who did sign up early lost out, because there were so many we didn’t expect.”
Because of that, and combined with the fact a new organization is running the Capital Region’s annual Toys for Tots train, the Whitehall group has made major changes in the way toys are distributed.
“Everyone needs to sign up by Wednesday (Nov. 21),” Lafayette said. “Only people who sign up in advance will be able to get toys.”
In the past, families greeted the train at the Amtrak station in Whitehall, then went across the street to the Whitehall fire station, where children were allowed to pick out a specific number of toys.
This year, the train will arrive at 11:01 a.m. Dec. 9, and it will depart at 11:45 a.m.
“All families are invited to meet the train, and those who are signed up can come back at 2 p.m. and we will have the toys all bagged up for them.”
Lafayette said one of the reasons for the change, beyond the issues last year, is that the program is no longer being run by the Marine Corps Reserve, but rather by the Marine Corps League, an association of retired Marines.
“It’s new management, so they are implementing new procedures,” he said.
Those interested in signing up must contact Lafayette at 499-1150 by Wednesday.
Anyone who wants to donate new, unwrapped toys should drop them off at the American Legion post at 148 Main St.