Toys for Tots in Polk County always needs toys. But as the operation gears up for Christmas there’s an even greater desire: volunteers.

During a recent visit to a dimly lit and tepid warehouse in Auburndale, about 30 volunteers, mostly retirees, worked to serve children and get the benefit of getting in better shape.

Katherine Herman said she’s been working as a Toys for Tots volunteer for 15 years. She said her work keeps her  fit as opposed to not doing much of anything. She’s particularly pleased with Toys for Tots in Polk County because of coordinator  David Waller, a retired local cop and FDLE agent who lives in Lakeland.

Volunteers Terry and Joann Hardenberg at the Toys for Tot center in Auburndale.

“He’ a great coordinator to work for and he gets things done,” Herman said. Waller is in his fourth season with the organization. He was awarded coordinator of the year for  the Southeastern United States by the national organization.

Waller needs stockers, shoppers, toy baggers and route managers.

Plus chippers, who are jacks of a few trades. And food angels, who bring meals or treats to the hardworking warehouse people.

To volunteer: sign up online.

Each child gets at least a toy, a book and a stocking stuffer.

The main toy Waller would like to receive is bikes. There are aobut 80 bicycles at the warehouse. But those bikes no way meet the demand. The kids who were lucky enough to get one last year must share it with siblings.

Toys for Tots distributed 46,655 toys last year to 12,362 local children.

The thousands of presents held in the warehouse were in years past stored on the floor, with volunteers straining to pick them up. They said Waller quickly got 80 tables donated. 

Snowbirds Terry and Joann Hardenberg split their time between Michigan and Polk County.

They volunteer because “we were bored out of our gourds,”  said Terry Hardenberg. “But we’re really doing it for the smiles on the kids faces.”

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