Toys For Tots Providing for Thousands of Berkshire County Kids
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Thousands of local kids will have presents to open this holiday season thanks to the Marine Corps' annual Toys For Tots collection.
The Berkshire County House of Correction's storage building looked more like Santa's workshop as a dozen volunteers sorted mountains of toys for ages newborn to 14.
"Everything's going great," Berkshire County coordinator Christopher Keegan said. "How could it not?"
Last year, about 3,500 kids received toys and Keegan expects that number to be surpassed this year. The state Department of Children and Families, one of more than 20 participating agencies, has more than a thousand sign-ups alone.
Individuals also register with Keegan directly and online.
For nearly a decade, he has seen more and more tots needing toys during the holiday season. Between 2021 and 2022, the receiving list increased by around 800 kids.
Unwrapped toys are collected through boxes placed in businesses, schools, and other public spaces. There were more than 240 boxes this year and they were collected on Tuesday to be sorted by gender and age groups.
The drive sees everything from dolls and toy trucks to a Little Tikes basketball hoop and donations are still coming in. Shoppers fill any gaps with funds that are raised through events like the Toys For Tots musical bingo, which was a great success this year.
Keegan's yearly goal is to honor every request for toys. There are many returning volunteers who collect, pack, shop for, and deliver the presents — sometimes up until Christmas Eve.
"It all depends on how many toys we have coming in," he said. "That will determine what we have to do."
The toy drive began in 1947 in Los Angeles. It was spearheaded by Marine Reserve Maj. William Hendricks and became a nationwide campaign in 1948.
At that time, the Marine Corps League joined the effort and has been leading it since. The Toys For Tots Foundation was recognized as a non-profit in 1991 and charitable donations were able to be accepted.
Keegan is in his 9th year as the Berkshire County coordinator after becoming a Marine Corps League Pittsfield Detachment 137 member in 2015. At his first meeting, he was ordered to take over the effort and has positively impacted it since.
"The very first thing they told me is 'you're taking over this,'" he said. "And really anything I do, I put everything into it."
As an employee of the maintenance department at the House of Corrections, Keegan's leadership has led to the Sheriff's Office becoming involved by loaning storage space for the toys and vehicles for their pickup.
For inquiries about the program, Keegan can be reached at 413-443-7220, Ext. 1150, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
To donate by check, make payable to: Marine Corps League Pittsfield Detachment 137
Mail Checks To: Berkshire County Sheriff's Office
C/O Christopher Keegan
467 Cheshire Road, Pittsfield, MA 01201
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