KARL Chevrolet HUMMER and KARL Automotive Service of Greenwich have assumed a leadership role again this year for the largest U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots collection project in lower Fairfield County.

Last year the group collected more than 5,000 of the 20,000 toys that were given to needy children in the region, according to George Ducanic, regional coordinator of the Toys for Tots program. Volunteers sort the toys and distribute them through shelters, churches and other non-profit social service programs throughout lower Fairfield County.

Donations of new, unwrapped toys for newborns through teens may be dropped off through Dec. 22 at the KARL Chevrolet HUMMER dealership in New Canaan, where they will fill the back of a 2011 Chevy Silverado on KARL's showroom floor, en route to the arms of delighted children. Toys may also be dropped off at KARL Automotive Service of Greenwich, located at 1330 East Putnam Ave.

This year, toys will also be collected on Dec. 4 during the New Canaan Chamber of Commerce's Holiday Stroll in front of the New Canaan Toy Store on Park Street and inside the Photos with Santa Holiday Stroll Shop on Elm Street. Toys may also be donated during the New Canaan Young Women's League's Breakfast with Santa Dec. 18.

Again this year, KARL has donated the use of a new Chevrolet to collect toys from other participating area drop-off sites. KARL employees will also provide toy sorting assistance at the Toys for Tots distribution center, located in donated space at 633 Hope Street in Stamford.

This will be the twenty-ninth year that truckloads of new toys for underprivileged children in area communities will be collected at the New Canaan dealership, one of the region's oldest sponsors of Toys for Tots. "Year in and year out, KARL has been our largest donor," said George Ducanic, who is marking his eighteenth year as the regional coordinator of Toys for Tots.

"There are many worthwhile holiday programs that help the underprivileged, but the Toys for Tots program really struck a chord with us," Leo Karl III, President of KARL Chevrolet HUMMER, said. "While the Toys for Tots Program is all about giving toys, I believe the real message to these kids is that there are people out there who care about you. We are so fortunate to be in a community full of very generous individuals, and we are simply here to help facilitate all that goodwill. It is an honor to be involved with such a great cause."

There is always a long list of toy requests. Toys for Tots volunteers distribute the toys to more than 70 area organizations, starting with the Jackie Robinson Park of Fame Christmas party at the Chester Addison Community Center for 500-600 children and concluding in early January with several Three Kings Day celebrations, including the Latino Foundation's party for 500 children at the Rogers School. "I anticipate there will be more requests from area agencies than ever this holiday season, but people have always been very generous. The community always comes through with the toys, especially for young children," Ducanic said. "We always need more toys for babies 6 months to a year, and for older children up to age 12."

Ducanic, a United States Navy Korean War veteran, volunteered for Toys for Tots for 15 years before becoming regional coordinator. He works with a team of about a dozen volunteers from Stamford's American Legion Post 3 and VFW Post 9716 to ensure that the toys reach the children.

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