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Toys for Tots to kick off annual training meeting

Toys for Tots is returning to The National Conference Center, a large and comprehensive conference center in Northern Virginia, for the sixth year to hold its 2015 Toys for Tots Coordinator Conference.

Nearly 500 coordinators from around the nation will attend the conference from Sept. 17-20. They will learn everything from handling donations and coordinating toy drop offs to a basic understanding of how IRS tax rules affect the campaign. The meeting also provides participants the opportunity to learn from each other and share experiences.

Toys for Tots is a national charity program run by the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve, which collects and distributes toys to less fortunate children whose parents may be struggling financially and unable to purchase gifts during the traditional Christmas holiday season. It is the only charitable endeavor associated with the Department of Defense that reaches out to local communities.

The program was started in 1947 in California by Major William L. Hendricks and was inspired by his wife, Diane, when she tried to donate a doll to a needy child but could not find an organization to do so. At Diane’s suggestion, he gathered a group of local Marine reservists who coordinated and collected 5,000 toys for local children. Hendricks used his position as director of public relations at Warner Brothers Studio to enlist celebrity support and later asked his friend, Walt Disney, to design a poster for a national campaign. The result was the Toys for Tots three-car train logo.

The program took off nationally, and in 1980, shifted slightly to accept only new toys as reservists were no longer able to dedicate the time required to refurbish used toys. Through 2014, the Toys for Tots program and foundation, has collected and distributed nearly five hundred million toys.

Some of the coordinators attending the meeting at The National were there from the beginning of the program, others are new.

“It’s a great place for us to hold our training and education sessions,” stated Major Brian A. Murray, USMC (Ret), vice president for operations of Marine Toys for Tots Foundation.

The very first meeting was held at the Marine Base at Quantico in the Officer Candidate School where the group had meals in the mess hall and shared showers.

“We’re excited to be at The National Conference Center again this year. We believe the training facilities here will ensure a better experience for our coordinators, and the great accommodations are very much appreciated,” Murray added.

“We are honored to have been selected again by this prestigious organization with such a worthy cause,” explained Geoff Lawson, vice president and general manager, The National and West Belmont Place. “We want Toys for Tots to have the best possible training environment and be able to set the tone for a highly successful holiday season this year.”

For more information, visit www.conferencecenter.com.

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