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It's about the kids, stupid

by BILL BULEY
Staff Writer | December 11, 2010 8:00 PM

COEUR d'ALENE - Behind the black, plastic curtain, beyond the sight of those coming in the front door at 2129 Main St. in Riverstone Village, long tables were lined with toys.

Ironman figures, Nerf footballs, tiny trucks, colorful cars and big books were neatly arranged for boys and girls, from infants to 12 years old.

Mike Milligan watched as men and women walked slowly, reading shopping lists, and placed some of those toys and books in shopping carts.

Not for their families, though. For others, on Christmas.

"There's not a paid person in here," he said proudly. "They're all volunteers."

Once again, the Pappy Boyington Detachment of the Marine Corps League has its Toys for Tots headquarters at Riverstone.

"Things are going OK on the distribution side," said volunteer Kevin Gonzalez. "Logistically, because of the economy, donations have been a little bit down."

Still, he said, Toys for Tots expects to assist more than 1,000 Kootenai County families this Christmas.

"We enjoy so much generosity in this community," he said.

Mike Milligan, project coordinator for the sixth straight year, said families can fill out applications for assistance through Saturday.

They have a new screening process this year, too, that requires applicants to live in Kootenai County and meet income guidelines.

Families of one to eight children have applied for help, he said, and many continue to come in.

Last year, Toys for Tots helped 1,480 families. In 2008, it was 1,208 families. This year, will be about 1,200.

The Toys for Tots headquarters is open from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Toy pick up will continue until Dec. 23.

Milligan said the Marine Corps operates a Toys for Tots program in 700 communities around the country and benefits millions of children.

He loves the program.

"We know there's kids in the community who need this," he said. "Parents are out of work and they're hurting."

Gonzalez said there is great joy when families come in to pick up toys for their children.

"The sense of thanks and enjoyment they have, despite how bad things are, they have something to share with their families," he said.

He added donations make it possible.

"We couldn't do it without the generosity of those folks," he said.

Riverstone Village, for the third year, donated space for the Toys for Tots program.

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