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With Thanksgiving behind us, charities such as Toys-for-Tots are hoping area residents will remember those less fortunate while they prepare for the upcoming winter holidays.

The toy drive, run locally by the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve, has placed boxes across Anne Arundel County. Fort Meade's push, which is coordinated by Marines from Marine Forces Cyber Command, began in late November. Their first pickup of toys was Saturday.

For four hours, Marines in their dress blues stood sentry over two Toys-for-Tots boxes in the PXtra, willing to offer a hand with donations. By the time the Marines left around 5 p.m., the group had hauled in nearly 100 dolls, bikes and other gifts for the toy drive.

"People came up and asked what we could and could not take," said Pvt. Garry Welch, a combat correspondent in training at the Defense Information School, who manned the Toys-for-Tots station. "We got to meet a lot of good people."

The toys will be added to the nearly 1,000 already pitched in from the National Security Agency. The donations will eventually be transported to the Glen Burnie warehouse of the Marine Corps Reserve's Anne Arundel County Detachment No. 1049, which is coordinating the charity drive in both Anne Arundel and Howard counties, before being distributed to area children.

The toys are certainly needed, as the regional drive aim is to collect tens of thousands of toys before the close of the campaign Dec. 18. As of last week, about 3,000 toys had been collected.

The campaign drive is coming off of a banner year. The 2008 campaign collected about 34,000 toys, up from about 15,000 gathered in 2007. The thousands of toys collected last year went to nearly 9,000 children, said Peter Pervi, who for the third consecutive year is leading the Marine Corps Reserves' efforts.

Fort Meade and the NSA were a large part of the 2008 success, with both gathering about 14,000 toys for the drive last year, Pervi said. Marines are hoping for the same outpouring of support this year, said Master Gunnery Sgt. Mark Sherman, of Marine Forces Cyber Command, who is coordinating the post drive.

"The Marines appreciate everyone's generosity," he said. "We're making sure every child has a toy this holiday season."

In addition to the Toys-for-Tots boxes available daily just inside the PXtra, a group of Marines will accept donations today at 6:30 p.m. for about an hour at Club Meade.

Donations of bikes, puzzles, dolls and other toys should be new and unwrapped. Toys-for-Tots does not accept any toy guns regardless if it is a laser gun or plastic toy gun, Pervi said.

To coordinate a pickup location for Toys-for-Tots or to arrange for Marines to come and collect toys for the drive go to http://anne-arundel-md.toysfortots.org/local-coordinator-sites/lco-sites/default.asp or call Fort Meade's Toys-for-Tots coordinator, Master Gunnery Sgt. Mark Sherman, at 410-800-6760 at least three to five days in advance.

Send comments or questions to amccombs@patuxent.com.

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