Don and Donna Paul have been married for forty-five years, they moved to Helena in 1984 and since have taken over organizing Toys for Tots in the Helena area. I met Don and Donna for the first time the day before Thanksgiving in the Salvation Army kitchen. They were prepping the food, a job many don't like to do. They were both there with their granddaughter, who was out of school and spent her free time mixing the mashed potatoes, cutting up veggies, and doing so with a smile on her face.
The Paul's start planning for Toys for Tots in September, and as soon as Thanksgiving is over, they go full-throttle. Organizing toy drives, setting up, unpacking toys, marking them, getting volunteers. In fact, the gym that I walked into at the Salvation Army, set up with chairs and tables for Thanksgiving, was now converted into what looked like a toy store. Tables where now filled with toys! Forming isles to guide the 'shoppers' to the appropriate age group table so they can choose their favorite toys.
They walked me through the process of getting a toy, each family and their child will line up and like everyone else, wait with anticipation until they reach the time to get not one...but three toys of their choosing. Toys for Tots also gives each family, puzzles, board games and different balls (footballs, volleyballs, soccer balls) so that children can enjoy games with the whole family. In addition, the Salvation Army will also be giving away food baskets including a turkey, and other items so that those in need can have a nice holiday dinner.
Toys for Tots will be taking new toys until Friday, the day before distribution. You can find Toys for Tots drop off boxes in nearly any store in town. The age groups that are in most need of toys are those in 0-2 and 15-17 age ranges for both boys and girls. Don and Donna will be at the Salvation Army gym ready to give away toys, and by their side will be their four grandchildren following in the family tradition.