While you are shopping for family and friends this weekend, Benton firefighters encourage you to pick up an extra toy for a child in need.
As part of Toys for Tots, firefighter David Moore said, a boot drive will be conducted from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday, Nov. 25.
"Firefighters will be out collecting money to purchase toys," Moore said. "We are helping the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve League Shawnee Detachment 812 and the Benton Fire Station is serving as a drop-off point for toys and cash contributions."
Moore said cash and toys could be dropped off at the fire station between 9 a.m. and 8 p.m. daily.
Patti Morgan said her husband, John, works with Southern Illinois counties during the Toys for Tots drive.
"He covers the lower 16 counties and I am in charge of the drive in Franklin County," Morgan said. "Families requesting to be added to the list are asked to call (618) 985-6128.
"Other drop-off points in the county that are accepting toys include Weeks in Benton, Dollar General and Salon Bliss," Morgan said.
She said fundraisers are also planned.
"Train Wreck located on Railroad Street in Benton is hosting a battle of the bands on Saturday, Dec. 3," Morgan said. "The fee is a new toy or $5 at the door.
"Donna's Sweetwater Saloon is also hosting a spaghetti fundraising dinner on Saturday, Dec. 10 for a $10 donation or a new toy," she said. "There is also a karaoke contest that night."
Franklin County is a particularly devastated area, Morgan said.
"We don't turn kids away," she said. "We especially need a lot of toys to fill the growing demand this year."
Morgan said Michelle and Kenny Scales, who live on Candy Cane Lane in West Frankfort, are also accepting donations for the Toys for Tots campaign on Dec. 3.
"Candy Cane Lane is extremely popular," Morgan said. "Michelle and Kenny help us collect donations for this annual event."
Moore said the donations help families in the area.
"This is a very noble cause," Moore said. "The Marine Corps detachment welcomes new members to attend their meetings that are held on the second Thursday of the month.
"The toys will be dropped off here at the fire station and sorted by age group," he said. "Parents will be able to select a toy for their child by visiting the Benton Fire Station on Sunday, Dec. 18, between 1 and 3 p.m.
"Firefighters will be serving hot chocolate, and we may get a visit from Santa."
Moore said firefighters selected the date for the boot drive to coincide with Black Friday.
"While you are out in the shopping frenzy, don't forget to buy a toy for a child," he said. "You might want to pick up some batteries for all of those battery-powered toys that will be under the trees of needy families across the county.
"These are especially hard times and a particularly low point in the lives of a lot of our neighbors," Moore said. "Children will be grateful for their new toys they receive, and it will make you feel better about yourself for doing something to help a child."