This year the Murfreesboro Fire and Rescue Department is celebrating 32 years of helping children through its Toys for Tots program. MFRD became involved with Toys for Tots in 1983 when Ms. Rose Yost established Rutherford County Miles of Dimes, which soon evolved into the current Toys for Tots. Yost asked for help from the fire department and its staff gladly provided support.
Toys for Tots began in 1947 when Retired Marine Corps Major Bill Hendricks and a group of Marine Reservists in Los Angeles collected and distributed 5,000 toys to needy children. The idea actually came from Bill’s wife, Diane, in the fall of 1947. Diane handcrafted a Raggedy Ann doll and asked Bill to deliver the doll to an organization which would give it to a needy child for Christmas. Bill determined that no such group existed and Diane asked Bill to start one, which he did.
The 1947 pilot program was so successful that the Marine Corps adopted Toys for Tots in 1948 and expanded it to a nationwide campaign. The initial objective remains the hallmark of the program still today, to “bring the joy of Christmas to America’s needy children.”
Since the beginning of the program in Murfreesboro, the Murfreesboro Fire and Rescue Department has helped by distributing boxes, collecting toys and monetary donations from local donor businesses and handing out toys to the little ones on the day of the giveaway. Yost retired in 2004 and the Fire and Rescue Department recruited the Rutherford County Home Builders Association to help with the organization and management of the program. The Home Builders helped MFRD until 2013. A small group of local businessmen and women assisted the fire department in 2013 and 2014. This year, the fire department, with the continued support of the business partners, has accepted the assistance of the Mt. Moriah Masonic Lodge to help with Toys for Tots.
Local organizers distributed over 100 toy collection boxes to area businesses in 2015, and have plans to assist over 1,000 young people.
As of late November, Michael Bartlett, Assistant Fire Marshall with Murfreesboro Fire and Rescue, said the project still needed a great deal more unwrapped toys and volunteers in order to meet their goal.
“Each year there is a lot of hard work and a lot of fun building up to the day we give out the toys. I ask everyone to help and bring their families and children to enjoy the experience,” Bartlett said. “They will better understand the need and the love in our community . . . the majority of the people who show up are truly needful and very thankful we are there to help them have a Christmas.”
He and other volunteers will register children Tuesday through Thursday, Dec. 8–10 at the First Cumberland Presbyterian Church, 907 E. Main St. from 5–7 p.m. Anyone wishing to register for toys for their children may bring with them photo ID, proof of address, each child’s birth certificate, proof of guardianship and proof of hardship (evidence of government assistance or free and reduced lunch program, etc.) The giveaway will be held on Saturday, Dec. 19. Pre-registration is required for all children receiving gifts in the 2015 Toys for Tots giveaway.
To volunteer or for more information about the giveaway, email firstname.lastname@example.org. To donate new, unwrapped toys bring them to any of the nine Murfreesboro Fire and Rescue Stations.