Time to sign up for Toys for Tots

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: Toys for Tots coordinator Greg St. Hilaire poses with a stack of toys in his warehouse. St. Hilaire urges the community to sign up for the Toys for Tots program so everyone can have a merry Christmas.

By Jon Johnson


GRAHAM AND GREENLEE COUNTIES – Every child deserves a Christmas.

That is the mantra of the national Toys for Tots charity and one that Greg St. Hilaire lives by every day of the year.

St. Hilaire and his wife, Carol St. Hilaire, work tirelessly throughout the year to make the Christmas season special to the children of Graham and Greenlee counties. Greg has been the local Toys for Tots coordinator for 12 years, and, in 2016, Carol became the coordinator for Greenlee County.

Greg, who once was a recipient himself when his childhood home in Minneapolis, Minn. burned to the ground three weeks before Christmas in 1965, has always held the program in a special high regard. Greg reminisced as to the positive lasting impression he got when the local Toys for Tots coordinator delivered a pickup load of toys for him and his nine siblings. That event lit another fire, one that burns deep in Greg’s heart and can only be quenched by revisiting the blessing he received upon others.

“This is my favorite time of year, and it’s the best job in the whole world,” Greg said.

The Toys for Tots program began in 1947 when Major Bill Hendricks’ wife, Diane, crafted a homemade Raggedy Ann-type doll and asked her husband to donate it to a worthy organization that would see it was presented to a needy child for Christmas. After not being able to locate such an agency, Diane suggested Bill start his own. That year, Hendricks and his Marine Reserve Unit collected and distributed roughly 5,000 toys to needy children in Los Angeles and the Toys for Tots program was created. It has grown since then, and the program now gives toys to millions of children.

The Toys for Tots program gives away about 15,000 gifts to roughly 5,000 children in Graham County, with each child receiving a small, medium-sized and large gift. The gifts are tailored to each child from a questionnaire parents or guardians fill out when they sign up a child. Greg said he believes he receives divine guidance in heading the program, as he is constantly hearing from parents that the toys he gives their children are just what they were hoping for.

Jon Johnson File Photo/Gila Herald: The program gives away 15,000 toys to 5,000 children in Graham County every year.

Greg became the local coordinator in 2007 and has improved the program each year, even through tough economic times. In 2010, he was recognized by the Toys for Tots Foundation as the Region IV Civilian Coordinator of the Year.

With assistance from the local Pepsi plant and the use of a storage facility in Solomon, Greg’s facility has become a depot where he can receive large shipments of toys from the national organization and parcel out the pallets of toys to other coordinators throughout Arizona and New Mexico.

The Toys for Tots program is a top-rated charity with roughly 97 percent of monetary donations being used to provide toys, books and other gifts to children with only about 3 percent used for administrative and fundraising costs. Locally, Greg said 100 percent of all donations are used to provide toys to the children as he even pays for his own gas to travel around the different counties gathering and distributing toy and money collection boxes and jars. While the St. Hilaires shop for toys year round to get the best bang for their buck, numerous businesses help out by allowing the roughly 100 toy drop-off boxes and 100 donation jars to be placed in their shops throughout Graham and Greenlee counties.

Jon Johnson File Photo/Gila Herald: Retired Marine Sgt. James Tippey and his sons, Kyler Tippey, and Mac Tippey, man the Toys For Tots station at Walmart on Veterans Day in 2015.

Those in Graham County who wish to sign up children to receive toys can do so at the Victory Fellowship Church at 555 Entertainment Ave., Monday through Thursday, from 1 – 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday, from 10 a.m. – 9 p.m. and Sunday, from 1 – 7 p.m. throughout the month of November.

Greenlee County residents can sign children up to receive toys at the Duncan Visitor Center/County Chic Art Gallery at 205 S.E. Old West Hwy. in Duncan, Monday through Saturday, from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.

A photo identification is needed but there are no income requirements to sign up for the program.    

For more information call Greg St. Hilaire at 928-792-3100.

Toys for Tots Trot

A Toys for Tots 5K will be held Saturday, Nov. 3, starting at 8 a.m. at the Mt. Graham High School parking lot.

The entry fee is $20 and will include a Marines’ Toys for Tot T-shirt. There will also be a toy donation box at the start/finish line.

For more information about the race contact either Alex Cerna at (928) 428-4698 ex. 2138 or Josh Brantner at (928) 428-4698 ex. 2162.