More than 400 families from eastern Schuylkill and Carbon counties were grateful as they picked up Toys For Tots and food donations in Lehighton on Saturday, during the first of two Schuylkill Carbon Marine Corps League (SCMCL) Detachment 626 Toys For Tots and Tamaqua Salvation Army holiday food distributions held in December.

"The number of families deserving assistance is steadily increasing every year," said Cheryl Laub, Toys For Tots coordinator, SCMCL.

The next distribution will be held Thursday at the Tamaqua Salvation Army. All families receiving assistance at both distributions were required to register and show proof of low income or need.

The coverage area for all the families receiving these Toys For Tots and food at these distributions consist locally of Carbon and Eastern Schuylkill counties. The Lehighton Salem Bible Fellowship Church donated its location, some volunteers, and comfort services for this year's Lehighton distribution.

Some volunteer groups that also donated their time during Saturday's distribution were the Summit Hill Black Diamond Parrothead Club, Lehighton Christ Evangelical Free Church, Salem Bible Fellowship Church, and Panther Valley Honor Society.

Laub expressed the League's appreciation for all the Marines, contributions, sponsors, volunteers, and support from the community this year.

"Hundreds of combined volunteer hours are given every season from League members, Salvation Army volunteers and community groups," said Laub. "Without them, we couldn't help all these people."

Any additional Toys For Tots or food donations can be dropped-off at the Tamaqua Salvation Army prior to Dec. 22, or call the Salvation Army at (570) 668-0410.

Ray Ziegenfuss Jr., Lansford, who had a heart attack a few weeks ago, had tears in his eyes as he picked up the donations for his four kids.

"I try really hard to provide for my family," Ziegenfuss said. "These donations mean I can choose to spend the money I do earn on more important things for my family, like heating oil."