Photo: David McGregor
Toys for Tots volunteer Michael Wilson stacks boxes of toys at the Lawrenceville warehouse.
LAWRENCEVILLE -- Inside a Lawrenceville warehouse, volunteers are hard at work Saturdays and Sundays sorting toys.
Donations of bikes, bats and balls, dolls, games and more come into the Toys for Tots distribution site but don't remain there for long.
"If you can kind of picture Santa's workshop, instead of building the toys, we're sorting them so they can go on the sleigh," said Carolyn Salvador, a board member for the North Atlanta Toys for Tots, a new branch of the Atlanta organization based in Marietta. "It's kind of Santa's little helpers' area."
Toys that come to the distribution site are sorted based on the genders and ages of children for whom they would be appropriate. Toys are then boxed or bagged to go out to the agencies that serve children who otherwise might not receive Christmas gifts this holiday season.
More than 9,000 toys have gone out so far, a small dent in the goal of giving 128,000 toys to 64,000 kids in Gwinnett alone. Toys for Tots hopes to distribute a total of 140,000 toys to the five counties served by the North Atlanta distribution site.
The northern division for the Atlanta Toys for Tots organization was formed this year to increase toy donations and distributions in areas previously underserved.
Last year, just 5 to 6 percent of the 720,000 toys collected through Atlanta Toys for Tots were distributed in Gwinnett.
"(These numbers were) not indicative of the people in need in Gwinnett County," Salvador said. "By creating this north Atlanta division, we're hoping to reach a larger number of disadvantage families."
Going into the giving season, Toys for Tots is in need of gifts for girls ages 11 to 14. Salvador suggested small electronics, inexpensive cameras, music, books, arts and craft items, cosmetics that are heavily packaged to withstand sorting, CDs and books.
Gwinnett residents can donate toys at drop sites in Lawrenceville and Lilburn. Toys for Tots has also partnered with the Gwinnett Gladiators to collect toys at home games Dec. 4 and 9. Every person who brings along a new, unwrapped toy will receive a raffle ticket for prizes drawn during the game.
The Aurora Theatre in Lawrenceville will be collecting toys throughout the late November and early December runs of its holiday shows, and concert-goers can donate toys during Star 94's Jingle Jam at the Arena at Gwinnett Center on Dec. 17. Anyone who brings a toy to the concert will be entered to win a guitar signed by all the Jingle Jam artists, which include the band The Fray and Owl City and singers Jordin Sparks and Leona Lewis. The more toys donated, the more chances to win.
Toys for Tots also accepts monetary donations that are used to purchase gifts for children in age groups in which donations were low.
For more information on Toys for Tots, visit atlantatoysfortots.com.