Volunteers Mark Stoepfel, Hank Buddelmeyer, Steve Buckland, Ron Gerding, Denny Ellerbrock, Tom Kaufman and Dale Gerding are shown with Jean Gerdeman and Becky Diemer on Thursday evening. The men were among the many volunteers honored by the Putnam County Optimists for assisting with the Toys for Tots program. (Putnam Sentinel/Nancy Kline)
Volunteers Mark Stoepfel, Hank Buddelmeyer, Steve Buckland, Ron Gerding, Denny Ellerbrock, Tom Kaufman and Dale Gerding are shown with Jean Gerdeman and Becky Diemer on Thursday evening. The men were among the many volunteers honored by the Putnam County Optimists for assisting with the Toys for Tots program. (Putnam Sentinel/Nancy Kline)

PUTNAM COUNTY — The men standing around a table on Thursday evening at the Eagles are the ‘official toy collectors.’

Each year they take a day and drive around with their pickups and vans and pick up over 70 Toys for Tots boxes during the holiday season.

“I guess we got started because we were just lucky,” said Dale Gerding. He said his wife came home one day over ten years ago and said they needed volunteers to pick up all the Toys for Tots boxes that are placed in businesses throughout the county.

“So I just asked my friends to help and we’ve been doing it ever since,” Gerding said.

On Thursday night the Putnam County Optimists held their first ‘social hour’ to honor volunteers who had made this year’s program a success.

“It takes a lot of people for this to work,” said Jean Gerdeman, who helps coordinate the program each year. She said this includes Junior Optimists who help get the boxes prepared for the businesses, volunteers who put the boxes in the numerous business, the men who pick up the boxes, and the numerous volunteers who put out the toys for eligible families to choose from.

The distribution is done by the Putnam County Thrift Store.

This year 669 children under the age of 12 were served.

Glen Arnold, with the Putnam County Optimists and on the committee for the Toys for Tots, said this year they received a lot of hats, gloves, scarves and blankets in addition to the toys that were donated.

“It’s great how this county steps up to meet the need,’ he said.

Money that is donated to the program is used locally to purchase more items for the distribution.