US First Lady Michele Obama stopped by a Toys for Tots warehouse in Virginia to drop off gifts and help with the sorting
US First Lady Michele Obama stopped by a Toys for Tots warehouse in Virginia to drop off gifts and help with the sorting

Christmas is a time for giving in the United States, especially to young children who look forward to getting presents.  But some families don't have money to buy gifts.  One program, sponsored by the U.S. Marines, collects donated toys that are distributed to underprivileged children during the holiday season. 

Joshua, a shy 3 year old, gets a bike at this warehouse in Stafford, Virginia, where toys are brought in for the U.S. Marines Toys for Tots program. "I like my bike," he said.

Bikes were purchased with financial donations from people in the local community.  Joshua's mother, Linda Stewart, is grateful Toys for Tots is helping her two children since she has little money to buy Christmas presents.

"It means a lot.  Times right now are hard.  You can barely pay your bills and to get a couple gifts that they really want is a blessing," Stewart said.

Her children are among the millions of underprivileged kids in the United States who are getting a Christmas gift through Toys for Tots.

Marines, as well as volunteers like Melissa Foss, are sorting the toys. "As the mother of two children, I know what it would mean to my kids if someone else were to help provide a Christmas to them if we weren't able to, and I think it's just a really important thing to do," she said.

Another mother who knows what Christmas means to her children is First Lady Michele Obama, who stopped by the Virginia warehouse to drop off gifts and help with the sorting.  "As long as I'm in the White House, we will be continuing to help this effort," she said.

From October to December, boxes like these are placed in businesses and work places for people to put new, unwrapped toys.  Marines pick up the boxes and service organizations and other groups distribute the toys in their communities. 

Christine and Moses Boulden are taking toys to help poor children in their church.  They have done this before. "It's really a wonderful gift for them and it makes them very happy," Boulden said.

Staff Sergeant Christopher Gordon, coordinator for the Toys for Tots warehouse in Virginia, says toys are given to any needy child. "It doesn't matter what religion you are, what color you are, where you come from, if you need help, that is the purpose of Toys for Tots," Gordon said.  "It's basically to help those families for Christmas to make sure every child gets something for Christmas."

At this shopping mall in Virginia, a radio station is asking people to contribute toys.  This little girl brought these gifts and donations.

Because of the economic decline in the U.S., this Toys for Tots warehouse in Virginia is getting about 40 percent less donations than last year.

John Racher, a Marine who is married with three small children, says even though money is tight, he wants to help children in need. "It is something we still feel is important," Racher said. "And if we have to sacrifice a little in some other place, we can still give to somebody else."

Staff Sergeant Gordon says a Marine is handing out 15,000 stuffed animals to children in Afghanistan.  He says even though the people are Muslim in the war torn country, he hopes they will feel the spirit of Christmas.