‘Toys for Tots’ means Merry Christmas for local families

LANDOVER, Md. — More than 15,000 Prince George’s County families will have presents under the Christmas tree this year, thanks to the annual Toys for Tots program.

“It’s a blessing because we don’t know a lot of what’s happening with these families,” says Dawn Stem, who organized the U.S. Marine Corps’ Toys for Tots event at the Prince George’s County Police headquarters. “These people are amazing people to me and that’s why I do it every year.”

Melissa Askew, a mother of eight, was among the first in line and waited 10 hours to get her bag filled with gifts.

“The cost of trying to provide for the kids … it’s hard,” Askew says. She’s taking home a bicycle and some dolls, but says it’s not the specific toys that matter: “We’re grateful for anything. Anything can help. Just to see a smile on their faces.”

It takes a massive effort to distribute the toys every year. On Sunday, there were about 100 police officers and 100 volunteers on hand to help collect and bag thousands of items for needy families.

“We all pull together from Thanksgiving to now, we do nothing but this,” Stem says. “I think we give [the families] just a little bit of spirit and it takes away a little bit of what they’re going through out there.”

Children — from newborn to 14 — receive two toys each, including games, crafts, makeup, dolls and bicycles.

The event runs until 7 p.m. Sunday.

November 29, 2021 | (Marcus Moore)

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