Toys for Tots collections are down

Maybe it’s the weather, or the fact it may not feel like the holiday season yet, but collections are way down so far this year for the Toys for Tots drive in Wilton.

Capt. Brian Elliott of the Wilton Fire Department said the department has been getting fewer donations so far than what it has gotten in the past. He said the police department is also seeing fewer donations.

“I don’t know if there are more drop-off locations or any other factors with a change in elected officials, perhaps people are leery about the economy,” Elliott gave as possible explanations for the drop off in donations.

The collection boxes at the fire station were emptied on Sunday, Dec. 2, for just the second time in three weeks since the drive has been going on.

At this point in time, Elliott said, the boxes would usually have been filled with toys and would need to be emptied once a week or more. He said he hopes things will pick up in the next few weeks.

The Toys for Tots drive ends on Dec. 14. To get the momentum going, the Wilton fire and police departments are holding a Stuff a Cruiser event at the firehouse/police station complex on Danbury Road on Saturday, Dec. 8, from 9 to 3.

At the event, there will be a fire engine and police car on display. Kids can sit in the car  and climb on the truck. Refreshments will be served. “We hope to get traffic to stop by, it’s a final push for the last weekend,” Elliott said.

Other Toys for Tots drop-off locations in Wilton have also reported that collections are down this year.  

Robert Odom, fleet manager at Hoffman Landscapes, said donations are coming in slowly. “Last year, it seemed slow at the beginning but it picked up near the end,” he said.

Lucy French, marketing manager at Bankwell, said only one toy so far has been received in the bank’s collection box. “Maybe now that it is December, people will be more in the holiday spirit,” she said. “The donations don’t have to be large. A small yo-yo or something little can go a long way,” she said.

The Nielsen Company recently put up its collection box and it’s empty so far, but they hope getting the word out to the community will help fill it up.

Things have been going a bit better at Westy Self Storage. Liz Romeo, Westy director, said they have had good luck with donations this year. She said that may be due to the fact that Westy is also a collection center for Dress for Success clothing donations. “We’re getting a good amount of foot traffic for Dress for Success. It makes it easy for people to drop off toys in the collection box,” she said.

Matt McMahon, Toys for Tots coordinator for the town of Wilton, said this is the time of year when donations really start to pick up as people do their holiday shopping. “We put the boxes out before Thanksgiving, and things may have been slow initially, but it should be picking up,” he said.

Toys for Tots is a program run by the United States Marine Corps Reserve, which distributes toys to children whose parents cannot afford to buy them gifts for Christmas.   The program distributes an average of 18 million toys a year to seven million children.

Last year, more than 1,200 toys were collected in Wilton, surpassing the collection of 1,000 toys in previous years. “For a small town, we more than pull our weight at this time of year with Toys for Tots,” Elliott said.

People can stop by at any time at Fire Station 1 on Danbury Road and Station 2 on Ridgefield Road, or the police department to make a donation, at any time throughout the drive since both are open 24 hours, Elliott said. They may also donate at other locations, including Pinocchio’s Pizza, Devan Chevy/Buick, Middlebrook School and Wilton Pizza. The toys go to the same place.
— Jeannette Ross contributed to this story.