Fewer Marines to Help with Toys for Tots Program in Reno - KTVN Channel 2 - Reno Tahoe Sparks News, Weather, Video

Fewer Marines to Help with Toys for Tots Program in Reno

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The Toys for Tots program in Washoe County has been taken over by the Marine Corps League—a volunteer group-- after the 4th Marine Division Anti-Terrorism Battalion stationed in Reno was disbanded. Officials with the 4th Marine Division in New Orleans, Louisiana say the Marine Corps has been restructuring with resources moved to other divisions. That caused the shutdown of the entire 4th Marine Division Anti-Terrorism Battalion across the country.

Here in Washoe County, plans are well underway for the Toys for Tots program, and Major Janene Zielinski of the Salvation Army says things are on track. "We hope to help over 3,000 families with 11,000 kids," she told a group outside the Salvation Army headquarters on Sutro Street Tuesday.

In the past you may have been able to hand your donation directly to a Marine in uniform, but this year Reno is minus most of its Marines. About 70 Marines in the Anti-Terrorism Reserve Battalion won't be here to collect toys at local Toys for Tots events.

The only Marines in uniform-- here in Reno-- are the six active duty Marines who work at the recruiting office on Moana Lane. But when we talked to them on Tuesday, they said not to worry about the Toys for Tots program. "It seems like Marines, they pop up when needed," said USMC Sgt. Jacob Gartner, a local Marine recruiter.

Janene Zielinski with the Salvation Army says she's already had several meetings with the Marine Corps League about how the program will run this year. The Marines at the recruiting office plan to pitch in at local events when they can, and they say they can count on retirees and young Marines who are home for the holidays.

The Marines still stationed in Reno say collecting toys in the community is something they don't want to miss. "They hand me a toy," said Sgt. Gartner, "and it's pretty much the smile that I see; knowing that they're going to give me a toy that's going to mean something to a young man or woman or child."

The Salvation Army will be sorting and counting the toys at its holiday warehouse on South Virginia Street in Reno. They plan to open the warehouse on Wednesday. With help from the community, they hope to provide toys to more than 11,000 children this Christmas.

 Written by Jennifer Burton

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