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Business owner helps get toys to tots

FAIRBANKS RANCH — On Nov. 20 Santa and his elves launched the 2010 holiday season aboard the USS Midway with Toys for Tots Family Day. The toy program, run by the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve, has provided happiness to disadvantaged children for 63 years.
San Diego Self Storage, or SDSS, employees were on hand for the celebration dressed as elves and reindeer.
“This is our 12th annual Toys for Tots toy drive and we’re proud to sponsor this effort on behalf of the children within the communities we serve,” said managing partner J. Terry Aston.
Fairbanks Ranch resident Tony Carr said SDSS became one of the first businesses to participate in the Toys to Tots program shortly after he and his partners established the company in the mid-1990s.
“It seemed like a good fit because we have highly visible locations, there are lots of people coming and going, and we have extra space for boxes and toys,” he explained.
Today, the number of sites has expanded to 19 locations in San Diego and one in Temecula.
Donations peaked in 2007 when a record 12,000 toys were collected. The number stabilized in 2008, then decreased to 8,000 last year.
“I was concerned that numbers went down,” Carr admits. “This was partially due to the economy. Then I saw that there were many more companies serving as drop-off sites. That made me feel good.”
Carr says SDSS provides boxes, trucks and drivers to pick up toys, then transport them to a central facility at the Miramar Naval Air Station. The Marine Corps makes the decision where they go from there.
In addition to the official drop-off sites, he adds that this year SDSS will pick up and deliver approximately 106,000 toys collected at Rady’s Children’s Hospital.
Carr adds that SDSS managers look forward to the holiday season every year.
“They aren’t shy about reaching out to tenants,” he said. “They’ll say, ‘Don’t know if you noticed but we have a box again. Now come on down.’”
As an incentive, drawings are held at individual SDSS drop-off sites for new and existing customers. Winners receive a $100 credit toward rent. This year’s drawing will take place on Dec. 20.
He adds that often individual employers will send out a flyer to staff asking them to bring gifts to annual holiday parties. Afterward SDSS will get a call asking them to pick the box up.
Some of the most valuable presents donated over the years have included motorized erector sets, computer games, high-end bicycles and oversized stuffed animals.
Carrs adds that the largest single contribution they received was in 2007 when a small company delivered 250 toys. The largest donation from a single individual was 100 toys.
“It’s a nice feeling to go into our sites and see them brimming with toys,” he said. “It means the program is working.”
Carr adds that one thing that has stood out since the beginning of the program is that San Diego continues to be a giving community, even in difficult economic times.
“San Diego has always been supportive of the military, even in poorer neighborhoods,” he said. “The toys may not be as expensive but there are just as many of them.”
Carr explains that in addition to spreading a happy holiday season, he anticipates that the Toys for Tots program has a “pay it forward” effect.
“We are hoping the message to kids is, ‘As others give to you, you will grow up and be productive members of society,’” he said.
The final pick up for Toys for Tots will be at 6 p.m. Dec. 19. All donations should be new, unwrapped toys.
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