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Toys for Tots: ‘It’s all about the kids’

The Jones Elementary School Choir directed by RebeccDuncan entertains as attendees enjoy lunch Marine Corps Toys for Tots program Dec.

The Jones Elementary School Choir, directed by Rebecca Duncan, entertains as attendees enjoy lunch at the Marine Corps Toys for Tots program Dec. 1, 2012, at Willowcreek Middle School. Both schools are in Portage, Ind. | Photo provided

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Updated: January 17, 2013 6:19AM



The City of Portage, the Portage Kiwanis Club and the Dunes Leathernecks Detachment helped usher in the Christmas season Dec. 1 with the annual Marine Corps Toys for Tots program.

The event, which takes
place the first Saturday in December every year, was held at Willowcreek Middle School for the first time. Another change was the addition of school choirs and part of the Portage High School orchestra. Crisman and Jones Elementary schools and Willowcreek Middle School choirs and the orchestra entertained, while people enjoyed a lunch of chili, baked potatoes and hot dogs.

“We’ve been at Woodland Park for the past eight years,” Marine Corps League member Jim Atkinson explained. “This year it was decided that Willowcreek School is more easily accessible and more centrally located. The involvement of the parents and students has been great.”

“We’ve had a huge turnout this year,” Kiwanis president Robin Wilkening said. “We’re almost out of food, and it’s not even one o’clock! We’ve gone through 32 pounds of baked potatoes and 15 gallons of chili. Once again Brad and Julie Sharp, owners of Schoop’s and Kiwanis members, donated all the chili.”

This event is all about donations. Walgreens donated the pictures with Santa. Parents could have their children’s photo taken and pick the pictures up at Walgreens soon after.

Families arriving for the festivities brought toys or monetary donations for the Marines’ collection bins. Dolls and teddy bears shared the overflowing bins with coloring books, games, cars and trucks.

“The Dunes Leathernecks have been doing the Toys for Tots in Portage for about 12 years,” Atkinson said. “For the past four years, we’ve seen an increase in families in need. The economy is worse, more people are out of work and many have faced serious illnesses. We probably average between 2,200 and 2,400 children in Porter County that we help annually. The general population of Porter County is so generous in supporting charities, and all these donations will go to area kids.”

The toys were distributed on Saturday, with the assistance of the Portage Marine Corps Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps and Valparaiso cheerleaders.

“It’s so nice to see young people involved. ... It’s a wonderful feeling — being hands on and helping the kids and the families,” Atkinson said.

“It’s all about the kids,” Wilkening said.

Following the Toys for Tots activities, the City of Portage Christmas Parade headed from Willowcreek Middle School to Frank Gilbert Park for the tree lighting.



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