More than two dozen collection boxes have been placed in Johnstown-area stores as American Legion Post 254 begins its annual Toys for Tots campaign, which nationally works to provide happiness and hope to children in need each Christmas season.
"We're trying to get the word out," Post Cmdr. Gordon Cromwell said. "Last year, we had 130 families come, in and we're hoping to help 150 families this year. It's been tough enough for a lot of families, and we want to make sure the children have a Christmas."
To ensure that toys and other donated items get to the right people -- those in need -- the Legion post implemented new rules last year. Participants will need to bring a photo ID and a water, gas or electric bill to show they live in the Johnstown area.
Residents from Northridge, Alexandria and Croton (ZIP codes 43001, 43013 and 43031) also may take part.
"Families do not have to show a need, so there's no proof of low-income eligibility, but we're hoping people are honest," Cromwell said. "We're trying to make sure this will help those that need it."
For those donating, toys or clothing should be new or gently used and unwrapped.
Monetary donations may be given to the any Post 254 member or mailed to American Legion Post 254, P.O. Box 413, Johnstown, 43031.
Registration will begin at 6:15 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 17, at the Johnstown recreation center, 195 W. Maple St. The toy distribution will begin at 7 p.m.
Steps have been taken to ensure the toy distribution is fair to everyone, Cromwell said.
One bag will be supplied to those who have registered, with no one allowed to bring their own bag, which had been the case during past events. Each person also will get a ticket that will be used to draw for larger items, such as bicycles or other expensive items, after all other toys are chosen.
Bruce Tolle, a Post 254 member and former commander, said the Johnstown campaign isn't directly affiliated with the national campaign.
Toys for Tots, a national nonprofit charity, was started by the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves. Local campaigns are conducted in more than 700 communities covering all 50 states. A number of national corporations support the foundation.
"We have people tell us they wouldn't have a Christmas without this," Cromwell said. "It's certainly worth the effort so many people put forth. It doesn't take a lot for kids' eyes to light up on Christmas morning."
Toy collection boxes currently are set up at the following locations in the Johnstown area:
* Alexandria Public Library, 10 Maple Drive, Alexandria.
* Church of the Ascension, 555 S. Main St.
* Coughlin Ford Inc., 670 W. Coshocton St.
* Croton Diner, 14 S. Main St., Hartford.
* Dollar General, 425 E. Coshocton St.
* Ernie Reyes Karate, 72 S. Main St.
* Granville Milling, 11891 Johnstown-Utica Road NW (U.S. Route 62).
* Heartland Bank Croton branch, 12 N. Main St., Hartford.
* Heartland Bank Johnstown branch, 730 W. Coshocton St.
* Hot Spot Coffee House, 94 W. Coshocton St.
* Johnstown High School, 401 S. Oregon St.
* Johnstown Village Hall, 599 S. Main St.
* Kroger, 800 W. Coshocton St.
* Lash Chevrolet, 755 W. Coshocton St.
* Mary E. Babcock Library, 320 N. Main St.
* Monroe Township Fire Department, 24 S. Oregon St.
* New Look Hair Designs, 78 S. Main St.
* Park National Bank, 60 W. Coshocton St.
* Shull's Hardware, 67 S. Main St.
* Tech International, 200 E. Coshocton St.
* Wichert Insurance Agency, 6 S. Main St.