BROOKSVILLE — Marine Corps League Detachment 708 semi-completed its 2019 Toys for Tots campaign on Dec. 13, with distribution to eligible families held Dec. 14 and 15. Detachment 708 Commandant Tony Akers said more than 3,300 children were helped this year, roughly 1,000 more than last year.

The campaign officially kicked off Oct. 1, when 320 Toys for Tots boxes were placed at local businesses, public offices, and organizations. Route collectors, both Marine and civilian volunteers, visited box locations to collect the toys each week, then more frequently as the distribution dates drew near.

Finally, they delivered the donations to a collection location at Pinebrook Medical Center’s VA clinic. Each toy collected was then separated by age and gender and stored prior to distribution.

In addition, fundraisers were held to collect new, unwrapped toys. Sponsors for events included Terlep Chiropractic, Brooksville Moose Lodge 1676, Silverthorn Country Club, ZigZag Scallop and Marker 48 Brewing.

Toys for Tots is a national toy drive, coordinated by local Marine Corp Reserves units in each county. But in Hernando County, where there is no Reserve, the Marine Corp League Detachment 708 acts as the coordinator.

Roughly 1000 families showed up over the weekend to collect their toys. Mark Jones, who played wide receiver for the Tennessee Volunteers and a number of NFL teams, including two stints with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, assisted with the distribution on Saturday.

But it isn’t over yet, said Akers. Volunteers will be out at the distribution location, 14540 Cortez Blvd., on Dec. 22 for any late toy pickups. Late registration will also be taken at that time. Those eligible should bring their identification, child’s birth certificate and proof of residency. They will take their toys with them.

The Toys for Tots campaign is actually a year-long initiative that picks up speed just after Thanksgiving. Each year the distribution location changes. Akers praised Commissioner Wayne Dukes for securing the current one. Last year, the credit went to Commissioner John Allocco for Century 21 in Brooksville. Akers’ dream is to one day get a permanent distribution site. “We could do so much more,” he said.

But the outpouring of support was impressive. “I reached out this year and got a great response from military and civilian volunteers.”

Roughly 45 assisted with the campaign, he added.