Story last updated at 11/25/2008 - 4:35 pm
JUNEAU - Alaska Army National Guard soldiers stationed in Juneau will begin conducting a search and seize mission this week in an effort to collect toys for underprivileged youth.
Members of the 2/97th Military Police Battalion will place donation boxes at high-traffic locations in Juneau during the annual Great Alaskan Toy Drive. The drive collects new toys (valued at $10 or more) donated by the community and National Guard soldiers and family members, then inventories and distributes the toys to non-profit agencies that ensure the toys get wrapped and placed with a child in time for Christmas.
Toy drive coordinator Michelle Shaw said she hopes to collect the toys by Dec. 19. All toys will remain in Juneau, she said, and many businesses where collection boxes are located have agreed to offer discounts to anyone who donates a toy.
"There's been an increasing need here in Juneau," she said.
Shaw said a lot of the toys donated are for younger children and there is always a need for more gifts appropriate for teenagers, such as gift cards or movie tickets.
"In the past, people liked to shop for little kids but we really need the older kids to be looked at," she said.
Sgt. 1st Class Andrew Swanston has been involved with the toy drive since 2002 and said he and his soldiers always look forward to helping put a smiling face on each child's face Christmas morning. Swanston said his unit is "a little short-handed" due to deployments and other assignments, but said collecting donations is "nothing we can't overcome."
The Great Alaskan Toy Drive has collected thousands of toys during past drives. Swanston hopes the charity he's seen in years past continues despite the hard economic times.
"I think it's every citizens responsibility to give back to the community," he said. "I think most people choose to do something. The people in Juneau are very generous."
Toy drive boxes can be found at Specs in the City, Holly's Hallmark, Valley Lumber, Curves, Imagination Station, G.W. Teal, Glacier Gardens, Home Depot, Night Moods and both Juneau McDonald's locations.