December 5, 2021

Annual Toys for Tots reports fewer sign-ups this year

S.N. Briere/ staff reporter

Melinda Batsford, of Cortland, picked out a 150-piece art kit for her 10-year-old granddaughter on Wednesday evening during the final distribution night for Toys for Tots.

Renee Carter looked at the table for 8-year-old girls and immediately knew what to get her daughter.

“Olivia is so easy to pick for,” she said excitedly as she placed the gift in the black bag she was provided.

Carter was one of the first people through the doors of the final distribution night for Toys for Tots toy drive, an annual event to help parents get gifts for their children.

She was one of 92 families totaling 146 kids being helped that night, said Norm Stitzel, the coordinator of the local chapter of the Marine Corps League’s annual Toys for Tots drive.

She was shopping for her three kinds Olivia Froelich, 8, Danielle Froelich, 17, and Austin Froelich, 18.

She was able to find everyone something they wanted. It wasn’t how she expected to get her shopping done for Christmas but was grateful there was such an event in the county to help, especially during the coronavirus pandemic.

“With COVID it’s hard to do anything, like hold a job and this helps,” she said, noting it’s been stressful but her family is making it through it.

Stitzel said fewer people signed up for the event this year.

“We expected our numbers to be up,” he said, noting the pandemic having caused a lot of financial stress for people.

He doesn’t know why the numbers are down, but he speculated a number of reasons could be at play, including that more agencies might have been helping families, so they didn’t need to go to Toys for Tots.

Either way, he’s still happy to help more than 1,000 children.

But this year was a great turnout for donation, both with the toy bins and monetary donations.

“We got a quarter or a third more toys this year,” Stitzel said, noting he still has 18 boxes full of toys coming from the Cortland chapter of the Sons of Sam bike club.

Donate for 2021

Drop off: Call Norm Stitzel at 607-4239031 to set up a time to drop off donations

Checks or money order: Payable to Toys for Tots, P.O. box 5113, Cortland, N.Y. 13045

To donate online: Specify Cortland at

The bank account showed $10,000 in monetary donations, which Stitzel said will help ease some of the fundraising stress for next year.

Tables lined the vacant store in Riverside Plaza, each designated an age range, making shopping easier for people.

Melinda Batsford saw lots of crafty gifts for her 10-year-old granddaughter Aleia Hartwick, so shopping was easy.

“She loves arts and crafts,” she said.

In less than 10 minutes she had one large gift, one small gift, a book and a stocking stuffer — no problem.

“She’s going to be excited,” she said, noting events like this really help parents in a financial strain.

Stitzel said people can still donate, too.

“Half a dozen people I know go to Walmart and other places and buy after Christmas stuff,” he said.