A handcrafted Raggedy Ann Doll was what Diane Hendricks gave to her husband Bill Hendricks. She told him to deliver the doll to an organization that could give it to a child in need on Christmas day.
Her husband couldn’t find a place that provided this service. That is when he decided that he would fulfill that need.
With the help of members of the Marine Corps Reserve Unit, Marine Reserve Major Hendricks collected and distributed 5,000 toys to children of the Los Angeles area during the Christmas of 1947.
The rest is history. The following year, Toys for Tots expanded nationwide and now Marines at each Reserve Center collect and distribute toys to nearby communities.
Today, Toys for Tots serves over 600 communities in the US including the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. On three occasions, it went international. The first time was in Nagoya, Japan in 1959 when a typhoon struck the city and left it devastated. The second time was in Panama in 1988 after its invasion, and the Caribbean in 1989 following Hurricane Hugo.
The organization tries its best to comfort children in times of grief. During the first week of December 2001, they brought in all of the children who had lost a parent during the 9/11 attacks.
Houston is one of many cities that collaborates with this program to spread happiness during the holiday season.
Houston Children’s Charity has worked with Toys for Tots since 2009, and in 2010 the George R. Brown Convention Center was host to the first toy distribution between Toys for Tots and the Houston Children’s Charity.
This Houston organization has helped kids throughout the last years in many ways.
Some of the programs they have are the “Limbs for Life” program where the organization provides free prosthetic devices to families with children who have lost a limb.
Another initiative is their “Back2School” program that provides children school supplies, so that they can start off their school year without any worries.
In total, Houston Children’s Charity has helped more than 3 million children through their services.
“(Our programs) have created a mutually beneficial relationship where the Marines coordinate the bulk of the toy donations and Houston Children’s Charity provides a list of pre-approved and vetted clients who need assistance,” said Caitlyn Pesl, a Houston Children’s Charity spokesperson.
Pesl said that they receive around 80,000 toys a year, and distribute it to approximately 20,000 children throughout the Greater Houston Area.
Some of the biggest collaborators are businesses who sign up to become a drop-off location.
According, to the Toys for Tots website, businesses need to sign up on their website, and state why they want they want to be a drop-off location. Then a coordinator will contact them for more information and/or arrangements.
“Because of Harvey, HCC’s list of children who are in need of assistance will increase heavily. However, because of HCC’s strong donor and volunteer support, we are well prepared to accommodate this increase,” Pesl said.
In addition, Houston Children’s Charity has set up a fund for all the families that were displaced during the hurricane along with Houston Astros shortstop Carlos Correa. Their goal is to raise $500,000 to provide 5,000 beds for children and families who lost everything during the storm.
In order to request a toy, families must sign up on the Houston Children’s Charity website and fill out a form which opens on Sept. 1. Donations begin collecting during October.
Regarding the annual toy distribution, the event is set to take place at the George R. Brown Convention Center on Dec. 22 and 23.