For the past, five years, I have been involved in the Orange County Department of Social Service’s Toy Chest. The program, a part of the department’s annual Holiday Program, provides toys, food and clothing to thousands of Orange County children who might not otherwise have a holiday.

Each year, parents line up hours before the building opens its doors. They come from all across the county, and have different backgrounds and stories. Some are desperately poor. Others have recently experienced a financial setback. But they all need help, and they are all incredibly grateful for the opportunity that the Toy Chest provides.

This year, the department plans to continue the Toy Chest tradition. But we need your help.

The Toy Chest, which is coordinated in partnership with the Marine Corps Reserve’s Toys for Tots program and local community donors, last year collected more than 6,700 toys for almost 3,200 children. Given this year’s economic climate, we anticipate an even greater need. Your involvement could mean the difference in one family’s holiday.

We are seeking organizations that will collect toys, donate money or volunteer at the Toy Chest event, which will run from Dec. 17-20 at the Orange County Department of Social Services location in Hillsborough. DSS representatives will make arrangements to drop off and pick up any donation boxes.

Monetary donations using credit or debit cards can be made on the Toys for Tots Web site,, and individuals who want to drop off a gift can find Toys for Tots box locations on the site as well. You can also submit a check or cash donation to the Orange County Department of Social Services, Holiday Program, P.O. Box 8181, Hillsborough, NC 27378. If you would like more information or would like to volunteer, please call Rebekah Clairmont or myself at (919) 245-2800.

I’ve been involved with the Toy Chest program for five years, and have found it to be one of the most rewarding parts of my job. We hope that you can help us provide families, as one participant wrote, “far more magic than we would otherwise have been able to.”

Happy Holidays!