How Toys for Tots Works

The U. S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Program is directed by the Commander, Marine Forces Reserve, with the assistance of his staff, from the Marine Forces Reserve Headquarters in New Orleans, Louisiana.

The Marine Toys for Tots Foundation, an IRS recognized 501(c)(3) not-for-profit charity, is the authorized fundraising and support organization for the Toys for Tots Program.  The Foundation provides the funding and support needed for successful annual toy collection and distribution campaigns.  The Foundation staff is headquartered in the Cooper Center located just outside the main gate of Marine Corps Base, Quantico, Virginia, about 35 miles south of Washington, DC.

Local campaigns are conducted annually in over 700 communities covering all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.  The Commander, Marine Forces Reserve has under his command 163 Reserve Units located in 47 states.  To cover all 50 states and more communities in each state, the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation selects Marine Corps League Detachments and Local Community Organizations (generally veteran Marines) located in communities without a Marine Reserve Center, to conduct Toys for Tots campaigns as part of the overall U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Program.

One individual, either a Marine, member of a Marine Corps League Detachment, or member of a local community organization, is designated the Toys for Tots Coordinator for that community.  The Coordinator is responsible for planning, organizing and conducting the campaign in his/her community.

Local toy collection campaigns begin in October and last until mid to late December.  Toy distribution also takes place mid to late December.  Members of the community drop new, unwrapped toys in collection boxes positioned in local businesses.  Coordinators pick up these toys and store them in central warehouses where the toys are sorted by age and gender.  At Christmas, Coordinators, with the assistance of local social welfare agencies, church groups, and other local community agencies, distribute the toys to the less fortunate children of the community.  Over the years, Marines have established close working relationships with social welfare agencies, churches and other local community agencies which are well qualified to identify the needy children in the community and play important roles in the distribution of the toys.

While Toys for Tots Coordinators organize, coordinate and manage the campaign, the ultimate success depends on the support of the local community and the generosity of the people who donate toys.

Local business leaders play key roles.  They allow Coordinators to locate drop-off/collection boxes in their stores; provide free warehouse space for storing and sorting toys during October, November and December; provide vehicles to collect toys from drop-off sites; sponsor toy raising events; and help Coordinators arrange media exposure for Toys for Tots in the local community.

National corporations support Toys for Tots by establishing affiliations with the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation.  These corporations make donations to the Foundation or conduct cause marketing initiatives from which they share royalties with the Foundation.  In almost every instance, the marketing initiatives of these corporations give significant added visibility and name recognition to Toys for Tots.  Such visibility enhances the campaign at the national and local levels.  The funds emanating from these affiliations enable the Foundation to purchase toys to supplement local collections; purchase promotion and support materials and defray the costs of annual Toys for Tots campaigns.

Elements of Toys for Tots

  • United States Marine Corps
  • Marine Forces Reserve*
  • Marine Toys for Tots Foundation
  • Marine Corps League Detachments**
  • Local Community Organizations***

Footnotes:

* Marine Forces Reserve consists of 34,000 Marine Reservists, 2,000 Active Marine Reservists and 4,000 Regular Marines for a total of 40,000.  Typically, 15 to 20% of the forces are involved in annual Toys for Tots campaigns.

**  The Marine Corps League (MCL) is a veteran’s organization of men and women who have served in the U.S. Marine Corps.  There are 1,100 MCL Detachments located throughout the nation.  The MCL has 76,000 members.  A Detachment typically has about 65 members.

*** Local Community Organizations (LCOs) are created in communities which do not have a Marine Reserve Center or a Marine Corps League Detachment.  LCOs are typically composed of veteran Marines and other socially conscious members of the community.