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Athens firefighters visited Kiwanis asking for help with the 2021 Toys for Tots campaign. From the left are Chad Burks, Destry Sills, Kiwanis member Amanda DeShazo and Ricky Harris.

Athens Fire Department representatives visited the Kiwanis Club, Tuesday at Tilos on behalf of the annual Toys For Tots drive.

Coordinator Ricky Harris said the need is great this year. As of Tuesday, 104, children had already been submitted from families needing help for Christmas. They’ll be taking applications through Friday, Dec. 17.

“Last year pretty much wiped out all of the toys we have,” Harris said. “We usually have toys left over from the previous year.”

COVID-19's effect on the drive also depleted the fund to purchase new toys. Despite the pandemic, they were able to distribute toys to 220 kids in 2020.

Harris said the fire department drive is not affiliated with any national effort. Everything they collect is used for children in our area.

Radio station KCKL focuses on the west end of the county, Harris said, while the fire department takes the east side.

He said the Help Center does the screening of applicants to be sure the toys go to those who really need the assistance.

The Kiwanis presented a check at the meeting to help the drive along and took up a collection.

The three drop off locations are Farm Bureau Insurance, Cain Center and the Big Red Schoolhouse on U.S. 175 going toward Eustace. You can also bring them to the Athens Fire Department stations on S. Prairieville Street and North Palestine Street.

Harris said they will set up to receive toys and donations Dec. 3 at the Trinity Valley Community College parking lot, next to the Central Fire Station.

“We’ll be there, we’ll have a helicopter there and Express Employment will have Clydesdales there.

Local 4-H groups will come to help sack up the toys. They are requesting new, unused toys.

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