Steve Ranson
AZ1 Celia Crackovich, left, gives a box of toys to Maime Hutchinson at the Toys for Tots distribution on Friday.

Because of the generosity of Churchill County residents, Christmas will be brighter for hundreds of children.

Both the Wishing Tree and Toys for Tots programs reached their respective goals to provide toys on Friday for hundreds of children.

Wishing Tree, with help provided by the Independent Pioneer Telephone Association (CC Communications) for the past 20 years, handed out toys for 240 children and 93 families. Two weeks ago, though, Wishing Tree still had families to adopt until word circulated around the county that the program needed additional help. What is also heartening for Crossland is how former recipients of Wishing Tree give back to the program by donating toys or adopting families.

“It happens every year,” said Beverly Crossland of CC Communications. “There were families left on the Wishing Tree, but the people responded … and also those who wanted to giveback to the program.”

She also said one business donated 24 rocking horses and bulls for the families.

The director of the Churchill County Social Services screens recipients based on their household income and determines eligibility. Shannon Ernst said last-minute phone calls from businesses enabled heer department to meet its goal.

“Our need in this county is always high,” Ernst said of those needing assistance with the Wishing Tree program.

Sandy and Aaron Zella have a 2-year-old daughter and another child due next year. This is the first time they have accepted toys from Wishing Tree, and they are grateful to the community and its support.

Sandy Zella said her family struggles financially every month, and Christmas would have been bleak if it weren’t for the community support through Wishing Tree and the assistance provided by church organizations.

“It’s hard, it’s tough,” she said Friday morning outside Fallon’s National Guard armory, the distribution center for this year’s Wishing Tree. “Families wouldn’t have had anything if its wasn’t for the organizations or churches.”

Sandy Zella said she is shocked by the enormous outpouring of support displayed by the residents.

“The last two years I have seen Fallon come through,” she said. “This community is stronger, more helpful. A lot of people appreciate what the community has done”

Later in the afternoon, hundreds of people lined up at Highland Village to receive toys handed out by the Marine Corps Reserve’s Toys for Tots.

“We have close to 500 kids needing toys, more than last year,” said Cindy Munoz, program coordinator. “I was still getting calls last night (Thursday) from people needing toys.”

Munoz said when her volunteers began setting out the bags and boxes of toys at Highland, she received an unexpected donation from a man who resides at the living assisted facility. He donated seven big toys including a large toy truck controlled by remote control.

That generous gift and the other donations overwhelmed Munoz.

“The contributions surprise me year after year,” Munoz said. “We think we’re not going to make it (have enough toys) but then the people donate more.”

Dressed in a bright red blazer, Harry Hines, a Marine veteran and the local longtime Toys for Tots program director, said the residents came through again.

“The community once again outdid themselves,” Hines said as he watched people checking in to receive their toys.

Volunteers from Naval Air Station and the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve spent the afternoon picking out the numbered bags for the recipients. IS3 Katie Pool, an intelligence specialist, arrived in Fallon four months ago from Virginia.

“It’s nice to see the community and people helping out,” Pool said. “It’s amazing to see how many people donated all these toys.”

After receiving a box of gifts for her 4-year-old daughter, Stephanie Martinez checked out the toys.

“This helps me out a lot,” said Martinez, who is trying to find work. “The program really helps single moms out.”

Martinez said this was her first time needing assistance from Toys for Tots, and she echoed many recipients about their support.

“Toys for Tots cares about people, and they are helping a lot of people,” she added.