Since the start of Toys for Tots 65 years ago, the U.S. Marine Corps has given about 452 million toys to children in need through nationwide collections before the holidays, according to the Toys for Tots Foundation website.
The Coffee Trade, a family-run coffee shop and antique store on Route 44 in Avon, has been a collection site since 1995.
"I've had people bring in sacks of toys or one little toy," said owner Dick Portfolio, who served in the Marines from 1966 to 1968 in a supply depot in Albany, GA that carried things soldiers needed from bullets and tanks to shoelaces and bayonets.
Portfolio, a Southington resident, will be collecting toys until Dec. 17 so that the Marine Corps can deliver the toys to children by Christmas time.
In the past, people have donated items like fully assembled bicycles and electronics with batteries. The Marines have specifically requested gifts for 12-year-olds, including gifts like books, games, DVDS, remote control electronics, bicycles, scooters and radios. Portfolio said that the toys should be new and unwrapped. Any check donations customers bring in should be made out to Marine Corps Toys for Tots, he said.
He will deliver large coffee sacks full of collected toys to Charlie Company, 1st Batallion, 25th Marines in Plainville – which facilitates Toys for Tots locally.
When the Charlie Company was activated in 2005 and 2006, The Coffee Trade ran a Supplies for Grunts drive for the Marine infantrymen. Portfolio said customers brought in chips, soaps, salty snacks, DVDs, CDs and other items to ship to the soldiers. One woman brought $800-worth of supplies that filled her van.
Portfolio gives all the credit to his generous customers.
"The outpouring was unbelievable.... I'm just the middle man," Portfolio said. "These are local guys, so that's why we wanted to help."
The Coffee Trade has been open since 1989 and Portfolio first participated in Toys for Tots the year he bought the place in 1995.
"It's something I'm able to do through the charity of customers," Portfolio said. "I know people want to help and don't know where to bring it."
History of Toys for Tots
Toys for Tots started in 1947 when Major Bill Hendricks' sought a place to give a doll his wife, Diane made to a needy child and found no organization to facilitate that, according to the Toys for Tots Foundation website.
He and other members of the U.S. Marine Reserves collected 5,000 toys that year for children and the Marine Corp has run the program ever since, the website stated.
Hendricks, a former Warner Brothers public relations employee, rallied many of his celebrity contacts to support the cause and Walt Disney designed the Toys for Tots logo, according to the website.
The Coffee Trade is located at 21 West Main Street in Avon and you can contact Portfolio for more information at 860-676-2661. Is your business helping others in need this holiday season? How so? Tell us in the comments!