Members of Bantam Marine Detachment 743 in Butler County continue to collect for their Toys for Tots organization, but they’re also seeking a donation of a different kind — about 5,000 square feet of workspace.
“Every year, we have to beg, steal and borrow to find a place to store the toys and distribute them,” said detachment member Ronald Ekas. “Usually, it’s vacant storefronts, where we’re paying for heat and electric.”
Toys for Tots, a Marine Corps program, works each year to provide new, donated toys to less fortunate children. Detachment 743 has distributed toys to more than 5,000 children the past two years.
Ekas said finding a storage and distribution location is becoming more and more difficult.
“The last two or three years, we’ve had to move three or four times because the storefront has been rented out,” he said. “We just can’t find the space.”
The operation must sort and store the toys. This year volunteers are working out of the former Prizant’s Carpet at Point Plaza Shopping Center, a space that was donated at the last minute, said detachment commandant Stanley Schubert.
“When we’re finished, we always have to move out, and we have to find a place for the leftover toys,” he said.
He said about 1,000 toys remained last year, and storage space in the offseason must hold equipment such as tables and collections boxes.
Toys for Tots has partnered for several years with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local Union 5, which has a reach over 22 Pennsylvania counties, including Butler.
Jim Saeler, president of the Butler County United Labor Council, said his organization helps to raise money and buy the toys.
“They do a lot of good; there’s no doubt about that,” he said.
Schubert said space of their own would help the organization function more smoothly.
“Right now, we have a great place, but we have to be out at the end of the year,” he said. “Then where do we go?”
Megan Guza is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach her at 724-779-6902 or email@example.com.