Marine reservist Major Bill Hendricks started the Toys for Tots program in 1947, finding inspiration when his wife could not find a charity to take a homemade Raggedy Ann doll she hoped could go to a child in need.
In the sixty-nine years since, the organization has distributed more than 469 million toys to children. They stopped accepting second-hand toys in 1980, owing to the mixed-message implied and the time involved in refurbishing them, which previously had been done by Marine reservists.
In 1995 Secretary of Defense William Perry added the Toys for Tots program to the Marine Reserve Corps official list of missions. The organization distributes toys at other times of the year besides the holidays, for instance working with FEMA to provide toys for children during the Hurricane Katrina disaster.
You can find opportunities to donate on their official website here.
Hendricks worked as a director of public relations for Warner Brother Studios when he founded the charity, and in its first year the familiar donation bins made their debut at Warner theaters. His position provided the opportunity to get celebrity support for the charity when it went national the following year.
This 1980 promotional record was sent to radio stations by Warner Brothers and features a side of celebrity spots, including Frank Sinatra, Michael MacDonald (of the Doobie Brothers) and George Harrison.