Safe drops set up to donate to Toys for Tots

The Enterprise — Michael Koff

“The kids need to know there’s hope and a better tomorrow,” said Marine Corps Reserve Staff Sergeant Patrick Lurenz.

ALBANY COUNTY — Nearly three-quarters of a century ago, Diane Hendricks, who lived in Los Angeles, made a Raggedy Ann doll for a child who might need it but didn’t know how to find such a child.

Her husband, Bill Hendricks, a major in the United States Marine Corps Reserve, then worked with other reservists to collect toys for needy children at Christmastime. The next year, 1948, Toys for Tots was launched as a national campaign.

Last year, the Capital Region Toys for Tots campaign collected and distributed about 460,000 toys, according to Marine Corps Reserve Staff Sergeant Patrick Lurenz.

This year, in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic shutdown, Lurenz says, the need will be much greater but, at the same time, collecting the toys will be more difficult.

The campaign usually allows 10 weeks for toy requests to come in, he said, and this year, just two weeks into those 10 weeks, the program has already gotten 80 percent of all the requests made last year.

“To say we are concerned … is an understatement,” said Lurrenz at Monday morning’s Albany County press briefing.

While the need is way up this year, Lurenz said, there is a lot of concern that, with COVID-19 cases increasing, people may be reluctant to walk into stores to donate.

Last year, for example, 35 percent of the toys, he said, were donated to bins at Dunkin’ shops, which may not be considered safe this year.

To solve this problem, the program is partnering with the county and with Dunkin’ to have safe toy-drop locations.

“You don’t have to get out of your car or come into contact with anything,” said Lurenz.

Anyone who would like to donate can visit the Albany County Hockey Facility at 830 Albany Shaker Road in Colonie on Saturday, Nov. 7, or Saturday, Nov. 14, between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. to drive through the parking lot and drop off new, unwrapped toys.

Those who donate — whether one toy or a dozen toys — will receive a $5 Dunkin’ gift card and a 10-pack of holiday munchkins.

Dunkin’ Field Marketing Manager Eric Stensland said, “Twelve years ago, we thought the Toys for Tots train was going to be derailed,” so Dunkin’ pitched in to help. “The need’s more important than ever,” he said.

Lurenz agreed: “2020 … has been a very trying year,” he said. People who have never been in need before — even people who had donated to Toys for Tots in previous years — are now in need themselves, he said.

He encouraged anyone who would like to have toys for their children at Christmas but can’t afford them this year, to go to the Albany County website to apply.

Lurenz, who works as a paramedic, says he has seen the way kids have been affected by the coronavirus.

“We want to make sure the people right here at home are taken care of,” Lurenz said, stressing that the toys donated from the Capital Region are given back to children in the Capital Region.

“The kids need to know there’s hope and a better tomorrow,” he said.

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