The annual Brown County Toys for Kids program is already under way, and parents who need assistance in providing Christmas toys for their children have until Dec. 5 to register.

“Our goal is to have more time to collect, buy and get prepared for the big day,” said Stacee Hetzel, whose parents, the late Dennis Thacker and Wanda Thacker Martin, founded the local charity program in 2001.

The shopping day, when the toys are distributed will be Dec. 19, and Hetzel said donations of toys and money will be accepted “up to and through the event.”

Sign-ups will be from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays; and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays through Dec. 5. All registrations will be taken and donations will be accepted at the Toys for Kids headquarters by Grand Starz, 2323 Belle Plain. Parents signing up for gifts for their children should bring a photo ID and their children’s Social Security cards.

Monetary donations can be sent by mail to Toys for Kids; P.O. Box 912; Brownwood, TX 76804. Also, there are drop boxes at several local retailers and the fire station will accept donations.

The local program has grown in need and response each year.

“Last year we had a record number of children signed up for the program – 1,275,” said Martin. “But the community came through. We had toys for all the kids. I say it every year, but the children of Brown County had a good Christmas thanks to the generosity of so many people.”

“We have come a long way from working out of the trailer of an 18-wheeler parked next to the house to having an actual space dedicated just for this project,” Hetzel said.

The Thacker family and friends dedicate many hours each year to the toy drive, and Hetzel said the family is truly grateful for the many hundreds of dedicated volunteers and donors.

Volunteer duties are many, she said. Some help with sign-up, and there are stockers, shoppers and sackers, those who help with parking lot control on shopping day, and those who do paper work and data processing even after the shopping date.

“We are here to provide toys for less fortunate families in Brown County who need help during the holidays,” Hetzel said.