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HELENA — On Saturday, Helena Toys for Tots held its distribution, filling the Helena Aviation Readiness Center with holiday cheer.
Over 400 families picked out toys for their children, and many parents were grateful to have presents for their kids.
“When you first come in, everybody is so helpful and then just being able to know that I’m going to go home with some things that they would have never gotten otherwise. I can’t wait to see their faces Christmas morning, so it’s great,” said Tandalaya Reyes, a Toys for Tots Recipient.
And others got emotional talking about Christmas morning being a little brighter.
“Oh, they’re going to be ecstatic because we’ve been struggling a lot lately, but yeah, I know they’re gonna be great,” said Kris Spillman.
Howard Mears, the Helena Area Toys for Tots coordinator, says the distribution took a lot of work.
“We have over, I think, 16,000 to 17,000 toys in the storeroom, right now. We have put hundreds of hours of work into it. Lots of planning, and it comes together when you see the look on the faces of the parents when they walk out of here.” said Mears.
But toys were not the only thing families were driving home with for their families.
“Four hundred twenty-five food boxes might go out today, so we stand ready to do that and the hand that we out. We’re so grateful for the community, though we couldn’t do without them,” said Major Brian West, Helena Salvation Army corps officer.
The Helena Salvation Army had grocery stores like Super One and Vans Thriftway donate holiday meals and gift cards.
Toys for Tots had over 250 people sign up to volunteer in Helena, and nearly 190 Lewis and Clark County store locations donated toys.
“This year, I did donate a lot of toys through the valley hub for the Toys for Tots, from friends, family, workers, and this is great,” said John Puderbaugh, who donated through the Valley Hub.
And for Marine Corps Sgt. Ty Hight, volunteering is his way of giving back to the community he serves.
“We’re just helping out, and it means a lot to like be here honestly and give back to the community. I think it’s really important to do that. It means a lot to me personally to give back honestly,” said Hight.
Mears says it’s more than just giving away toys.
“Toys are just things, but I also look at the look for the heart of the giver, and you can see that in the thousands of people that have donated toys to us this year for thousands of people that have donated money so we can go shopping for toys. So it’s a very gratifying process,” said Mears.
Intermountain and Shodair Children’s Hospital also visited the distribution center.
Mears plans on holding a different distribution for the families in Denton who lost their homes due to the fire on Dec. 1.

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Helena Toys for Tots distributes toys to hundreds of families – KTVH