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Toys for Tots program from US Marine Corps.

In a typical year, the Toys for Tots program provides over 15 million free toys to over 5 million children from struggling families. The assistance is provided by the United States Marine Corps in all 50 states, and they partner with thousands of local charities to administer it. Learn how to apply for help from the free Toys for Tots service as well as the eligibility criteria below.

In addition to these various local charities as well as non-profits that partner with the Marines to administer the service to children, Toys for Tots relies on donations from corporations, individuals, and the community in general. If possible give back or volunteer to help the less fortunate.

While all 50 states are covered, there are almost 800 individual sites that operate this service. Each is focused on helping kids under the age of 14. Of course Toys for Tots has income requirements, and it is only for children from low income families or that are facing some form of short term hardship. The goal is to give each child one or more free gifts to open on Christmas morning, whether it is a toy, clothing, game, book, or whatever.

The Marines work with many organizations, local charities, churches as well as individuals on the Toys for Tots program. Everything is done as part of a not for profit foundation that was created to do this. Many different groups are part of the Us Marine Corps foundation, as all these organizations help Toys for Tots provide assistance to the community.

Local distribution sites for Toys

As part of this service, there is a Marine who is assigned to each of the 800+ sites that administer it. They coordinate the service with donors, thousands of volunteers, the charities that actually disburse the Christmas toys, and also hundreds of corporate sponsors. The coordinator also provides outreach to the community. They create an application process for parents in each community.

Toys for Tots relies on many different organizations. There are churches, charities, retail stores, and groups such as the Salvation Army that take part. Often local businesses assist as well, such as maybe a mall helping collect Christmas gifts or a small business owner allowing the use of a storage unit to hold the toys. Of course, there are donation sites set up as well for people to bring toys too.




As businesses often decide to help the Marines by becoming a “drop off site”. Or individuals may donate money to the US Marine Corp program to help it operate, or they volunteer to help spread the word on it.

Applying for Toys for Tots

The local coordinator signs up distribution sites in each town and county. Any parent with a child needs to apply at one of those local distribution centers, which are often charities. Or they may be able to apply online. This needs to be done as the United States Marine Corps will only allow charities to pass out free Christmas presents, toys, and more to kids. The items need to be new; not used. Or in some cases the US Marine Corps Toys for Tots program will give out gift certificates and/or cards to kids.

To apply for assistance from this program, the household needs to have a child under the age of 13. In addition, each parent that is requesting a Christmas gift from the free Toys for Tots program will need to bring Social Security cards for each child that is part of their application, a picture identification as well as bring proof of residency in that town. The application start date will vary by local town ort city, but it is often in September or October.

The family also can’t “double dip”, meaning they can’t use this United States Marine corps program as well as other local resources, such as angel Tree. Applications for the Toys for Tots campaign will always be crossed referenced. Find more details here, or dial 211 for more details.





If and when approved, usually a voucher or ticket is given to the parent, and they will need to redeem it at a Toy for Tots distribution site in their community. They need to do this before all relevant deadlines have been crossed, as Toys for Tots is time sensitive.


By Jon McNamara

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