Wrapping up what has been a highly successful year in the Ocean State, the final scheduled pickups in this season’s U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots program were made in Cranston over the weekend.
“We are the face of Toys for Tots, but it’s the businesses and the citizens of the state that made this possible,” said MSgt. Frank Impagliazzo of Cranston, who became the program’s statewide coordinator this year.
Impagliazzo on Saturday made stops at the Subway restaurant at 475 Atwood Ave. and the Edward Jones location at 800 Oaklawn Ave. to pick up boxes of toys donated by customers. He said more than 81,000 toys were collected this year, topping the more than 60,000 collected in 2012.
At Subway, which has participated in the program for several years, manager Nicole Nichols said customers were “absolutely the best,” donating six boxes of toys overall. Among the gifts was a bicycle, which Impagliazzo said is a “rare find.”
“We did good this year,” said Nichols. “People are getting nice gifts.”
Impagliazzo praised Subway’s participation and the level of giving from the restaurant’s customers.
“We never thought anybody would bring in six boxes of toys,” he said.
At Edward Jones, financial adviser Steven Grasso – who has also participated in Toys for Tots for several years, including at his prior location on Park Avenue – said the business’ roughly 500 clients quickly filled the collection box after calls were made to each of them.
“I have a very diverse client base … They’re all so eager to do it,” he said. “It’s a great program.”
Impagliazzo said Edward Jones went “beyond the extra mile” with the phone calls, and he applauded the participation of “community-based businesses collecting toys” for youngsters in need.
A 26-year veteran of the Marine Corps who has served four tours of duty in Iraq between Operation Desert Storm and the more recent conflict, Impagliazzo has traditionally taken time off at the end of the year to assist with the Toys for Tots drive. This year, he stepped into the coordinator’s role.
In another first, the Marine Corps Reserve Unit partnered in 2013 with the Salvation Army’s Rhode Island office, utilizing its staff, facilities and experience working with nonprofit organizations to help collect and distribute toys.
“They opened their home to us … They really helped us this year,” said Impagliazzo regarding the Salvation Army, specifically citing the efforts of Wendy Kountz, the group’s statewide coordinator, and her husband, Robert Kountz. “What a great partnership.”
The amount of toys collected this year has allowed each child to receive two or three gifts, said Impagliazzo.
“You’re so grateful for what comes back,” he said.
Impagliazzo said all items collected in Rhode Island stay in the state, and also noted that through the Toys for Tots Foundation’s national office, all local monetary donations also stay in the Ocean State.
“We keep the money here,” he said.
Impagliazzo said plans are already in place to form a committee for next year’s Toys for Tots drive, with the Salvation Army set to again be involved.
Any businesses with collected toys still to be picked up can contact the Reserve Training Center, 1 Narragansett St. in Providence, at 569-2592.