Wednesday evening, 18 Towson-area girls filed into their Girl Scout Troop 10340 meeting at the Idlewylde Community Hall and placed unwrapped Christmas gifts on a table.
Their troop leader, Jeanie Ismay, of Idlewylde, organized the girls — a group of nine first graders classified as Daisies and nine 5th graders classified as Juniors — on a stage in the hall and laid out their mission for the evening. They were to sort the 40 or so presents by size and place them in decorative bags to be given to less fortunate children in the community through the Toys for Tots program.
This year is the second in which the troop has collected and bagged gifts for Toys for Tots, a program of the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve that collects toys in October, November and December of each year to distribute to children who might not otherwise receive holiday gifts.
The presents were scheduled to be delivered to the Toys for Tots warehouse for Baltimore, Howard and Carroll counties, located in Lochearn, today. A Toys for Tots official said the charity expects 3,500 families in need to come to the warehouse this weekend to pick out gifts for their children.
Families request the toys, said Sgt. Shawon Clark, assistant coordinator of the warehouse, adding that there is no set criteria for who is eligible for the program. Each child in a family receives two toys and two stocking stuffers through Toys for Tots.
The warehouse has been busy in the weeks leading up to the holidays, Clark said. Last weekend, about 1,500 families came to the warehouse to pick out presents.
"We'll never know who gets them, but let's send them our good thoughts," Ismay told the girls scouts as they prepared the presents last night.
In a matter of minutes the girls had teamed up and packaged the presents in colorful holiday bags. Toys for Tots officials ask for unwrapped presents so that they can ensure the donated toys are new and so families picking up gifts can know what they're receiving. The bags the Towson Girl Scouts were using can be opened, so that the recipient can see what's inside, Ismay explained.
Kallie Lorber, 11, of Loch Hill, said she picked out a toy truck to bring to the toy drive because it's the kind of present she would have liked to receive.
Lily Bradford, 10, of Idlewylde, said she brought a toy she plays with at home and enjoys, called a story cube set. The sides of the cubes have actions on them, such as talking, running, or jumping. The player then creates a story based on the words that come up when the cube is rolled.
"It helps your imagination," Bradford said.
Ismay, an attorney, donates the toys collected by the troop through a program at her law office, Leder & Hale, PC, in downtown Towson.
So far this year, the three-county branch of the nationwide program has collected roughly 30,000 toys, Clark said, which is on par with past years.