Toys for Tots location

Toys for Tots locations, such as the one in Boone Mall pictured here, have labeled boxes where people can drop off new and lightly used toys for kids in need.

Local chapters of Toys for Tots and Santa’s Toy Box are hard at work to make sure local kids have a merry Christmas in 2019.

Toys for Tots is being headed up locally by Lisa Pierce, who is coordinating for Watauga, Avery and, for the first time officially, Wilkes County.

“We’ve unofficially helped Wilkes County for the last two years because they didn’t have anyone to cover that area,” Pierce said.

The campaign started Oct. 1 and Pierce is gearing up for the home stretch.

“So far, we’re a little bit down on our donations,” Pierce said. “I’m very optimistic that the donations will start picking up after Black Friday when all the good sales come in.”

Pierce says the nonprofit works in conjunction with the departments of social services, local school systems and through word of mouth to find kids in need of Christmas assistance.

“I’ll do whatever I can to provide some toys to those kids,” Pierce said. “We’re here to do our best to help families reach their Christmas happiness.”

Toys for Tots has a money donation box at Smokes ‘n More by Walmart and is partnering with local Dollar General stores, plus they have a number of toy dropoff locations in all three counties.

A current deadline is Dec. 10 for donations, but Pierce said there’s no cutoff for donations or applications to come in, saying that emergencies do happen.

“Any money donated locally will go toward helping those local kids,” Pierce said.

Parents go to pick up the toys at the distribution centers, and Pierce said she asks the parents not to bring the kids with them, in order to keep the surprise of the toys coming from “Santa” to Christmas.

“Being a veteran myself, I try to find a way to continue giving back,” Pierce said. “I’m hoping the kids enjoy it and are happy and get everything they’re hoping for or wanting.”

For more information, visit or contact Pierce at

Santa’s Toy Box returns for its 33rd year as local organizer Gene Swift is prepared to distribute boxes across Watauga County.

“People in Watauga County that need is the only requirement we have,” Swift said.

Swift asks that people who reach out for assistance from the charity provide a driver’s license and two forms of ID to confirm their Watauga County address. To contact Santa’s Toy Box for assistance or to volunteer, call (828) 264-4801.

Monetary donations can be sent to P.O. Box 1337, Boone, N.C., 28607, which goes to Deerfield United Methodist Church.

Toy boxes will be placed at the Edward Jones office in Blowing Rock, the Boone Police Department, Ross Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram on N.C. 105 in Boone, First Citizens Bank in Boone, the State Employees Credit Union in Boone, Haircut 101 in Boone and several Circle K locations in Boone, among others, according to Swift. Boxes will be decorated and have Santa’s Toy Box signs on them, Swift added.

Swift asks that new or lightly used toys and books be dropped off. After collection, parents can pick up the toys and books prior to Christmas at the collection location in the 600 block of Greenway Drive in the strip mall across from Watauga Opportunities, where a sign will be on the door.

The boxes will be emptied on a regular basis up to Dec. 12, when final collection will be done, Swift said.

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