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Carlisle Toys for Tots organizer looking for help with gas cards, garbage bags for toy donations

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After so many years of providing toys to area children, the Toys for Tots operation at the Marine Corps League Lewis B. Puller Detachment 524 in Carlisle is a well-oiled machine. The coordinator and volunteers purchase toys, collect donations and bag and tag them for a monthlong process of distribution.

While this year’s campaign is doing well with toys, with coordinator Robert Kessler purchasing even more at Ollie’s Bargain Outlet Tuesday morning to help supplement toys for certain age groups, it’s sometimes the behind-the scenes needs that can come with an extra price tag.

One such need is a basic, but vital item needed in the distribution process: garbage bags.

Anyone who has seen or experienced a Toys for Tots distribution, which starts this Saturday, will know that each family gets a collection of gifts that are bundled together in a black garbage bag. The gifts aren’t wrapped at the time of distribution, so the bags provide an easy method of shielding children from knowing what they’ve received and organizing which bundle goes with which family.

Kessler said a company has normally provided these garbage bags each year. This year, however, the group didn’t get the donation, despite requests to it and other hardware companies.

“They’re not helping out this year,” he said. “We gave out about 800 bags last year. Just 20 boxes would be 1,000 bags.”

The detachment usually gets 42-gallon, 3-mil thick, heavy duty bags that won’t break with the number or weight of the gifts.

If the Marines don’t receive donations of garbage bags, they have to purchase it themselves from the funds that could be better used purchasing toys for children.

With last year’s geographic expansion and with this year’s inflated gas prices, Kessler said his volunteers are also in need of gift cards for gas. He said volunteers are traveling to Shippensburg, Perry County and the West Shore from Carlisle to pick up donations from collection boxes or help with distribution. Given how often collection boxes can fill up, that could mean a lot of driving for those volunteering.

“We’re still handling Perry County and Shippensburg,” Kessler said. “That’s where the gas cards would come in.”

Anyone who wishes to donate garbage bags or gas cards to the Marine Corps League can stop by its building at 101 Noble Blvd., Carlisle, between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday through Dec. 14. Residents can also contact Kessler at or donate online at

While Saturday distribution will only include pre-approved families picking up gifts, Kessler said they welcome any resident who’d want to drop off food for the Marines and volunteers who are working those mornings. Distributions start Saturday and continue a few more Saturdays into December.

Email Naomi Creason at or follow her on Twitter @SentinelCreason.


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