About 350 families will have a better Christmas this year thanks to local efforts by the Toys for Tots program.
Christina Flores, coordinator for Toys for Tots Los Banos, said although donations have slowed this year, need has increased.
"As far as unemployment, there are lots of people out of work and unable to have a Christmas," Flores said.
Toys for Tots, which started collecting donations Dec. 1, spent part of last week outside Kmart asking for toys and monetary contributions. The location was chosen because the group would not have to compete with other charitable organizations throughout town also asking for donations.
Los Banos Kmart Manager Jesse Castillo said he was more than happy to allow Toys for Tots to set up in front of the store.
"It's great for the community and great for the store. I'm always glad to help the (armed) service," Castillo said.
Toys for Tots began after World War II, when a marine wanted to give toys to children of veterans who had died. The Marine Corps later adopted the idea, and the program eventually expanded to all needy children.
Vietnam War veteran John Ramos said he supports Toys for Tots each year because he believes in giving back to the community.
"I respect the Corps and I respect what they're doing. I've always wanted to help children," Ramos said.
Sgt. Isac Quiroz, a graduate of Los Banos High, helped staff the Toys for Tots donation area in full dress uniform. Quiroz, who is between tours of duty, said he likes helping people on the Westside where he grew up.
Flores' group distributed the toy donations Saturday. A raffle was also held for the people who provided toys. The first place winner received a flat screen TV.
Enterprise reporter Corey Pride can be reached by phone at (209) 388-6563 or by email at cpride@losbanos
Enterprise reporter Corey Pride can be reached by phone at (209) 388-6563 or by email at cpride@losbanos enterprise.com