Johnstown American Legion Post 254 Commander Bruce Tolle said a few changes have been made to this year's annual Toys for Tots to ensure that toys and donated items go to the right people -- children in need.
"In the past, people weren't getting things for kids," Tolle said. "It's for the needy, not the greedy."
Tolle said at previous Toys for Tots distribution events, people would come to the Johnstown recreation center with gigantic bags and literally sweep toys and donated items into them, clearing off the tables in minutes. He said he suspects the items would end up at people's garage sales and not in the hands of needy children Christmas morning.
"We expend a lot of man hours in chasing around collecting the toys and then setting up for this at the rec center," Tolle said. "And once we turn people loose to pick up toys, the toys generally are gone in only about five or 10 minutes."
Otherwise, he said, the drawing for the bikes, etc., takes another 20 or 30 minutes.
"After that, we have to fold up and stack all the tables, sweep and mop the floor and empty the trash, and then we lock up and go home," he said.
This year, he said, some new rules are in place. Participants will need to bring a picture ID and a water, gas or electric bill to show that they live in the Johnstown area, which also includes Northridge, Alexandria and Croton (ZIP codes 43001, 43013 or 43031).
Registration will begin at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 18, at the Johnstown recreation center, 195 W. Maple St., Johnstown. The toy distribution will run roughly from 7 to 9 p.m.
Tolle said steps were necessary to ensure that toy distribution is fair to everyone.
"People will have to wait outside until we open the door and let them start coming inside to register," he said. "We will supply each person with one bag for toys; no one will be allowed to bring in their own bag."
Tolle said each person would get a ticket, which will be used to draw for bicycles and other big or expensive items after all other toys are chosen.
For those donating toys, he said, in general, toys should be unwrapped and new, or clean and "like new." Monetary donations may be given to any Post 254 member or mailed to American Legion Post 254, P.O. Box 413, Johnstown, Ohio 43031. Tolle said he has no idea why, but stuffed animals aren't popular as gifts.
Tolle said 25 collection box locations are set up around the Johnstown area, including Johnstown-Monroe High School, the Johnstown village offices, the Alexandria Public Library, the Church of the Ascension and Coughlin Ford Inc., among many others.
"We don't have an exact cut-off date (for collection), but the weekend before, we'll probably pick up all the collection boxes," he said. "We sometimes have people call us with donations at the last minute, after we think we've collected all there is to collect."
Tolle said he hopes the new rules wouldn't deter people from participating in Toys for Tots because the program definitely helps brighten Christmas for many children.
"Last year, we helped 48 families provide Christmas toys for 198 kids," he said.