Retirees helping Toys for Tots reach magic number

The goal for this year’s Pierce County Toys for Tots drive is 70,000 toys. This is George Hight’s third year as coordinator for the Pierce County Toys for Tots, and he thinks they will make it.

Toys for Tots got its start in 1947 in Los Angeles, Calif. and has now spread to over 700 campaigns.

Hight said Marine Corps Reserve conducts the program wherever there is a reserve unit, and if there isn’t a unit, a voluntary organization can take it on.

“In Pierce County we have a Marine Corps league, and I’m the coordinator,” said Hight, who added he has a wonderful staff that handles what he considers to be 98 percent of the work.

“They are all veterans, Marines, soldiers, Navy and civilians,” he said.

Saying the average age of his volunteers is about 65, Hight estimates that most of the volunteers had a professional life and retired and are now available to donate their time and energy.

“When I find people like that who want to be involved and provide for the children, I latch on to them, give them a position and leave them alone,” he said, adding that the volunteers come with enormous management skills and ability and are very capable.

Chuck Warden started volunteering four years ago as a forklift driver and is now the transportation director for the local Toys for Tots organization.

“I may be financially retired, but I’m not mentally retired,” said Warden, who added he just doesn’t want to be what he refers to as a “couch potato.”

“When I walk out of that place every day, I know I contributed something back to the children of the community who are economically disadvantaged. It is a form of giving back to the community,” he said.

Some of the volunteers include prisoners from the Pierce County Jail system. Warden said they try hard to serve as an esteem builder for everyone.

In order to receive toys from the program, children must be eligible for any of the state Department of Health and Social Services (DSHS) programs, said Hight, adding that donations can be made at a number of local businesses.

“Edward Jones Investment is a great partner with us, and we have collection boxes at any Tacoma Fire station that is open,” said Hight.

There are approximately 140 Toys for Tots collection boxes scattered throughout the county, including Peninsula Metro Parks in Gig Harbor.

Toys for Tots is an IRS-recognized 501(c) (3) not-for-profit charity and operates in all 50 states plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

Hight said they collect toys all year long, and the big push takes place from mid-October through the end of December, when volunteers work hard to collect as many new, unwrapped toys for the children in their local community as is humanly possible.  The goal is for each child to receive two toys.

Many hours are spent sorting the toys by age and gender to be sure that all the children have something new and appropriate to open on Christmas morning.

Saying that they receive hundreds of thank you notes and photos from grateful children and their families, Hight noted that it is rewarding to know that there will be a smile on each child’s face on Christmas morning.

For more information about Toys for Tots, visit

George Hight, coordinator of Toys for Tots in Pierce County, is seen with “Mrs. Claus” and Ed Troyer, a Pierce County Sheriff Department official and a Toys for Tots volunteer, at a toy drive at the Walmart store in South Hill last year.