The littlest gifts can pay off big

Tavern raises $2,300 for Toys for Tots


Herald Writer

EVERETT — Ronald "Hub" Morgan scooted around his crowded tavern Sunday afternoon to the beat of pennies clanging one by one through a metal change-counting machine.

Two uniformed U.S. Marines stood watch. Regulars at the Crow’s Nest Tavern at 12th Street and Broadway sipped suds and toasted to each dustpan full of pennies loaded into the counting machine.

Clang, clang, clang. More pennies. More counting.

It took more than five hours to count the $887 worth of pennies that customers over the past year tossed into a red barrel marked "U.S. Marines Toys for Tots."

Pennies weren’t the only things Morgan got in his red barrel after challenging customers to fill to the rim.

"We got a lot of pocket lint," Morgan said, adding that customers were willing to empty their pockets for the cause.

Through the penny drive and other efforts, Morgan and his customers raised $2,300 this year so the nonprofit group can buy toys for kids in the area.

Master Sgt. Rick Bradley, area coordinator for Toys for Tots, said he’s seen people give a lot of toys and a lot of money over the years.

"This is the first one I’ve seen with pennies," he said. Luckily, Bradley wasn’t taking the pennies. The Crow’s Nest donation came in check form.

Morgan will be the one lugging pennies to the bank.

Over the years, Morgan has raised more than $30,000 for Toys for Tots. One year, he was even recognized for his efforts with a plaque that now hangs on the walls of his establishment.

Bradley said Toys for Tots items are distributed through local organizations such as Christmas House and the Boys and Girls clubs.

Major Bill Hendricks founded the toy program in 1947 in Los Angeles. That year, 5,000 toys were collected.

The idea really came from his wife, Diane, however. Diane Hendricks had crafted a Raggedy Ann doll and asked her husband to deliver it to an organization that would give it to a needy child.

When Hendricks learned no agency existed, his wife urged him to start one.

Over time, the program evolved and in 1995, the Secretary of Defense approved Toys for Tots as an official program of the U.S. Marine Corps and as an official mission of the Marine Corps Reserve.

In 1999, Marines and volunteers distributed more than 13.8 million toys to about 5.9 million children.

Last year, the program locally distributed toys to children from 8,000 families in Snohomish, Island, Skagit and Whatcom counties, Bradley said.

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