Last year, the campaign provided toys for 2,550 children in the five-county region and this year it hopes to provide toys for 3,000 children.
Al Fagan knows all too well that there are too many children in the area whose parents just can't afford to celebrate Christmas with gifts. Too many children who think of Christmas as just another day. Too many children left speechless when asked the common question at schools in January, "What'd you get for Christmas?"
But, from the beginning of October to Christmas time every year, Fagan dedicates a lot of his life toward changing that.
Fagan is the area coordinator for Toys for Tots, an organization that collects new, unwrapped toys as Christmas presents for families in need. Locally, the campaign has been managed by the Sgt. Darrell S. Cole Detachment 1195 of the Marine Corps League and is officially one of 748 campaign sites in the United States.
"Every child deserves a Christmas and it's our job to help give it to them." Fagan said.
Fagan, who served in the Marines for more than 30 years, has been the campaign's coordinator for the last four years, overseeing all Toys for Tots operations in Pulaski, Phelps, Laclede, Miller and Maries counties.
He has a lot on his plate as the area coordinator and is responsible for accepting or rejecting the thousands of requests he receives.
"I rarely reject requests," he sad. "Most of the time it's just because the families are located out of my area and I direct them to the proper people."
The gracious gentleman also coordinates volunteers, drop box locations, distribution points, and promotes events and campaign awareness.
Last year, the campaign provided toys for 2,550 children in the five-county region. Fagan said that roughly 70 percent of the toys were donated locally and were supplemented by national donors.
"The idea is to reduce the amount of supplemented toys and increase donations," Fagan said. " But because of the economy, the donations are decreasing and the need is increasing."
Even in decline, Fagan said he is amazed with the generosity and support from the people in this area year after year.
"The biggest thing that strikes me is that a lot of the people who donate the toys look like the people who should be asking for toys," Fagan said. "They feel like they might have gotten some benefit out of the program in the past, and then they get a little extra money and they give back. Even if it's something really small like a $1 toy."
This year, Fagan wants to provide toys for 3,000 children in the area.
There are several ways to contribute to the Toys for Tots campaign. Locally, there will be several Toys for Tots events to help the campaign gain awareness. The campaign is asking for volunteers, donors and businesses to help out in any way possible.
For more information on how to help with Toys for Tots or how to request for toys visit: waynesville-mo.toysfortots.org/