MARYLAND

Toys for Tots in Montgomery County receives surplus of toys

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GAITHERSBURG, Md. (WJLA) - Toys For Tots' Montgomery County chapter says generosity was so great this holiday season, it received more toys than it needed.

On Monday, the nationwide not-for-profit held a local toy giveaway at its 4,000-square foot warehouse in Gaithersburg. The announcement, which spread like wildfire on social media, drew lines out the front door Monday from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m., when the final toy was handed-out.

"Toys For Tots always come through every year," Sandra Baker of Rockville said as she clung onto a black garbage bag stuffed with gifts for her four biological children and the five foster kids she also cares for. "There's doom in our house because there aren't many toys. So when I get back home, they're going to be jumping up-and-down, they're going to be giving me hugs because we have Christmas toys!"

An ever-tight budget kept Silver Spring resident Laurie Arias from buying Christmas gifts this year. The mother of five, with one on the way, says her husband's carpet installation job barely keeps the house warm and food on the table, let alone put presents under the tree.

"I got up here as fast as I could," Arias said with a relieved laugh. "Kids don't understand why mom and dad don't have the same amount of money their friend's family has. So this helps them feel like they're just like everyone else, that they're not different."

What is different, the sheer number of gizmos and gadgets donated this season. According to Toys For Tots, the organization collected 36,000 toys across Montgomery County last year. Compare that to 98,000 this year. While the majority of the 98,000 toys were distributed to local churches, homeless shelters and schools, the dramatic spike left 30,000 unclaimed gifts boxed-up in a temporary warehouse that needs to be cleared by Jan. 1.

"I don't have all the riches, all the money in the world, but life is wonderful. I have my kids, they're happy, I'm sober and we're here, we're happy," mother Latoya Blue, who kicked her drug addiction this year, remarked.

In order to take part in the event, Toys For Tots required parents prove Montgomery County residency, and present a birth certificate to receive gifts for each child. However, as far as verifying one's true financial need, volunteers relied on the honor code.

"Trust. That's what we have to work with," Elizabeth Scott, a volunteer of 25-years, said. "Imagine yourself as an adult, being in a house full of money and you don't know which dollar bill to grab first. That's the way these kids were, and I'm telling you this was Christmas for me."

In the end, it took less than five hours to distribute all 30,000 toys. Toys For Tots says it served 550 kids during the unexpected giveaway Monday.

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