Deanne Stein, News9.com
OKLAHOMA CITY -- Each year during the holidays, the United States Marine Corp Reserve is called out all across the country. Their mission is to collect new, unwrapped toys during October, November and December for its annual Toys for Tots campaign. The toys are then distributed to needy children in the community.
But this year, the Marine reservists are not mandated to participate like in years past. A move that is hurting donations in Oklahoma City.
"Since the program is a volunteer program, they (USMC Reserve) wanted to focus on volunteers and not Marines being mandated to help," said former Marine SSgt. Elijah Dixon.
Since the participation isn't required, Dixon said he has seen a decrease in the number of volunteers, which in turn is hurting the number of donations.
"We've got 12 locations we could be at right now," said Dixon. "To know we have the manpower here, but not be able to utilize it, it's really frustrating."
Many Marines are stepping up though. Sgt. Adam Arredondo spent much of his Sunday morning and afternoon standing outside of a metro Walmart to collect money and toys.
"Very rarely do I get a minute to myself when I'm not shaking someone's hand or they're not thanking us for what we do," said Sgt. Arredondo. "Anytime there's a Marine standing on the box itself, it tends to create that exposure."
SSgt. Dixon said that's what he needs, more exposure. Because while boxes are in place at many drop off locations throughout the metro, his fellow marines are not.
"We're so far behind the curve," said SSgt. Dixon. "We're about 25 percent of where we need to be, in comparison to last year and the year before."
In fact, in 2010, Dixon said the Marines collected 30,000 to 40,000 toys, helping around 13,000 Oklahoma children. Right now, they only have 7,700 toys collected.
"We are experiencing a little bit of a down year," said Sgt. Arredondo. "But we'll continue to push all the way through to the last day so we can make sure and get at least one toy for every child."
The donation center has moved this year to inside Crossroads Mall. People donate money or toys here or at several other locations throughout the metro. You can also sign up to volunteer.