A group of eighth-graders at Castle Heights Middle School joined with school cafeteria workers to collect almost 400 toys for York County's Toys for Tots campaign.
At least three children asked birthday party guests to bring toys for the program rather than gifts for them.
One woman mounted a neighborhood toy drive, going door to door and hanging fliers to get out the word then opening her garage door to collect the donations.
These are the people making it possible for Toys for Tots to provide Christmas gifts for children who might not otherwise get any.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Herald
"It's everyday people," said Wayne Broach, the former Marine who heads up the Toys for Tots program in York County. "As bad as this economy is, they know that other people are suffering more and are giving what they can."
Last year, that was more than 7,000 Christmas toys and thousands more stocking stuffers for less-fortunate children.
There are 460 Toys for Tots campaigns across the country, run mostly by local Marine Corps Reserve Units. But without a local unit, York County went without its own program for many years.
About 2002, a group of local Marine veterans formed a chapter of the Marine Corps League, which provides support to Marines, Marine veterans and their families in need and takes on other civic commitments.
Five years ago, the group, called the Olde English Leathernecks, was granted approval to run a Toys for Tots campaign in the county. Now, every toy they collect stays in York County, going to a York County child.
Toys for Tots dates to 1947, when the wife of a Marine Corps Reserve major in Los Angeles sewed a doll and asked her husband to give it to an organization that would pass it on to an underprivileged child at Christmas.
The major could find no such program. So his wife suggested he start one. His efforts collected 5,000 toys, and the Marine Corps adopted the program and expanded it nationwide the following year.
The toys are collected mostly through the 61 drop-offs around York County. But the Old English Leathernecks also holds some special events to spur donations.
The group recently parked a pick-up truck outside the Wal-mart stores in Rock Hill and Fort Mill and challenged the community to fill it with toys.
"They filled that truck," Broach said, "all four days it was out there."
Toys for Tots coordinates with other York County charities in the Sleigh Bell Network - sharing leftover toys after all its applicants have been helped, for instance - but operates largely on its own.
The Olde English Leathernecks take applications, collect and sort donations, pack toys and hand them out mostly through the work of about a dozen volunteer members.
It's a time-consuming endeavor, said Broach, who has a full-time job managing the payroll and cashier's offices at Winthrop University.
But it's worth it.
"I don't get to see the smiles of the kids getting the toys on Christmas morning who might not have been expecting it," he said. "But I do get to see the smiles of the kids and adults who give the toys."
He recalled one small child bearing a handful of pennies who proudly handed them over.
"He walked away, beaming, telling his mom, 'I gave to Toys for Tots! I gave to Toys for Tots!'" Broach said.
"It was heart-rending."