PRESIDIO OF MONTEREY, Calif. - Since 1947, Marines have been making Christmas wishes come true for needy children. As the Christmas holiday season is upon us, people can be sure local Marine volunteers are hard at work giving Santa a hand through the Toys for Tots program.

Locally, among 40 Marine volunteers, each week between 70 and 75 hours go into collecting toys during the holiday season, which runs through Dec. 11, said local program coordinator Gunnery Sgt. Andrew Vetter. In all, they put in nearly 300 hours a year, he said.

Last year, about 1,000 children in the Monterey area received toys through Toys for Tots, Vetter said. Through the program, military and civilian children alike, have the opportunity to receive new toys for Christmas.

This year, he said, he expects the need to be even greater. Vetter explained that as the economy has declined, the need has grown. As households struggle to pay the most basic of bills, the prospect of a Christmas without toys under the tree has become a reality.

He described the current holiday season as something that looms on the horizon, rather than being something to look forward to. If not for the Toys for Tots program, he reiterated, more children would face a Christmas with fewer or no toys, so the Marines are reaching out to community members and asking for help.

Donors may drop off new, unwrapped toys at the following locations. The locations will accept donations through Dec. 11. After that, people with installation access may drop of unwrapped, new toys at the Marine Corps Detachment, building 629, on the Presidio of Monterey.

Drop-off locations
•Thinker Toys (Carmel)
•Thinker Toys (Del Monterey Shopping Center)
•Navy Exchange (NPS)
•Post Exchange (OMC)
•La Mesa Mini Mart (La Mesa Housing Community)
•Navy Federal Credit Union (NPS)
•Seaside Fire Department
•Michael's (Marina)
•American Legion Post 41 (Seaside)
•Chapel (OMC)
•Monterey Road Child Development Center (OMC)

Locally, the Army has also stepped up its holiday season assistance this year.

The 229th Military Intelligence Battalion enlisted Operation Homefront to aid local Soldier families this year--providing toys to help make the 2011 holiday season a bit more cheerful.

While the registration process for Operation Homefront presented some challenges, "it was worthwhile to work through [the] process to get the toys and see the gratitude in the eyes of the Soldiers," said Debra Simpson, the 229th MI Battalion Family Readiness Group assistant.
With Operation Homefront providing the toys, Simpson worked with the company first sergeants to identify Soldiers' families who could use some help this holiday season.

"It gives you a warm feeling knowing you have helped our service member families have a better Christmas," added Simpson, who said she expects to stay involved with Operation Homefront and its many programs.

Simpson said she learned about Operation Homefront by networking with another family readiness assistant. Although this is the first year the 229th received toys, Simpson did receive school supplies earlier this year from Operation Homefront, which she was able to distribute through the battalion.

Also, Simpson invited shoppers to visit either Post Exchange where 229th Family Readiness Group members are offering gift-wrapping services for a nominal fee until Dec. 24.

For more information on Operation Homefront, visit
(Public Affairs staff provided additional information for article.)