HELENA — Ask just about any kid and they’ll confirm Santa is pretty impressive and capable of a lot. But sometimes the jolly old elf needs a little help, which is where the Marines Toys for Tots comes in.
As dawn broke in the Helena Valley Saturday morning, volunteers of all stripes began transforming the Army National Guard Aviation Readiness Center into Santa’s workshop. Over the next week, they’ll sort well over 10,000 toys for families in the greater Helena area.
It takes a small battalion, more than 300 volunteers, to pull off the feet. And those helpers know their mission.
“Help people who need toys,” said young Ben Listerud.
The whole Listerud family were lending a hand Saturday, and said they were glad to spend their weekend helping the cause.
“Toys for Tots is a fantastic organization. They’ve been helping families in the community for years,” said father Jason Listerud. “And being able to come here and help them out is just a fantastic opportunity, as a parent, to not only show our kids what service means but to also give back in the place that we live.”
Helena Toys for Tots is aiming to distribute around 25,000 toys this year. Volunteer crews will be working every day up to distribution to sort toys and get ready for the big day.
Coordinator Angie Fillinger says they’re still in great need of volunteersand every person is needed, no matter how young or old.
“It’s amazing, I mean Toys for Tots is definitely a community project,” explained Fillinger. “There’s no way we would be able to do this without all the volunteers. All the ages, all the ability levels and it’s amazing to see families come in together, parents with kids who come in. Whether it’s a half hour or all day long, every little bit helps.”
Also, this weekend at Walmart, Lithia and Montana Radio were helping make one last big push for donations before distribution, calling for donations and purchasing thousands of dollars of toys themselves.
Helena Toys for Tots is still accepting late registration for families in need of toys and Fillinger says it doesn’t matter what your situation is, if you need help, they’ll be there.
“I’ve been a single parent. I’ve had hard times over the years… I know what it’s like to go paycheck to paycheck and not knowing if you can pay rent or provide Christmas presents, or pay the power bill,” Fillinger said. “Doing what we can to help those parents out is my favorite part. Seeing that look of relief and giving them that hope and joy for the year.“
Families still looking to sign up should reach out to Angie Fillinger. More information can be found on the Helena Toys for Tots website.