Longtime Toys for Tots Coordinator Brings Holiday Cheer to Upper Valley Kids

  • While sorting through books, Post Mills, Vt., resident Rick Maynard, coordinator for Toys for Tots in the Upper Valley, keeps his doughnut out of reach from his dog Sadie on Dec. 22, 2018, in Lebanon, N.H. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News — Jennifer Hauck

  • Jeff Schwarz, of Orange, N.H., left, shakes hands with Rick Maynard coordinator for Toys for Tots in Lebanon, N.H., on Dec. 22, 2018. Schwarz was dropping off toys he was donating to the organization. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Jennifer Hauck

  • Rick Maynard, of Post Mills, Vt., now in his 16th year as coordinator for Toys for Tots in the Upper Valley, speaks on the phone at the Toys for Tots location in Lebanon, N.H., on Dec. 22, 2018. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News — Jennifer Hauck

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 12/22/2018 11:26:51 PM
Modified: 12/26/2018 10:04:00 AM

Lebanon — As droves of parents and grandparents rummaged through a trove of board games, action figures, stuffed animals and more at Toys for Tots’s distribution center on Miracle Mile on Saturday, Rick Maynard didn’t hesitate to say what keeps him involved.

“How can you say no?” said Maynard, now in his 16th year as coordinator for the Upper Valley arm of the Marine Corps’ national charitable program. “I just can’t say no when I know there are people in need.”

Other volunteers call Maynard a “whirling dervish” for his year-round dedication to the Toys for Tots mission of providing tangible signs of hope to economically disadvantaged children, especially at Christmas. Since the Post Mills resident became coordinator, the Upper Valley detachment and satellite programs he helps throughout he Twin States have provided toys to more than 100,000 children, having entered this holiday season with about 99,750 in tow since 2003.

Maynard, 66, said it’s his way to give back after chronic injuries sustained when he was broadsided by a car at age 18 kept him from serving in the Vietnam War. Instead, he received a medical discharge.

“I had orders to perform barracks duty at the White House, but I volunteered to go to Vietnam instead,” said Maynard, who began volunteering with Toys for Tots in 1999 and also volunteers for Meals on Wheels Upper Valley. “I had a 30-day leave (before being deployed) when I was hit by a car. ... I was never able to fulfill my obligation to the service.”

Maynard more than satisfies his duties with Toys for Tots, maintaining relationships with various organizations like police and fire departments that collect toys throughout the year to donate. With no permanent local headquarters, Maynard always is on the lookout for “Space Available” signs, approaching landlords about donating space, heat and electricity in order for Toys for Tots to set up its distribution center for the holidays from mid-November through Christmas Eve.

Toys not taken by families go back to a warehouse at RSD Transportation in White River Junction, which has donated storage space for the program since the mid-2000s.

“I don’t know what we’d do without them. Ninety-seven cents of every dollar nationally goes toward (purchasing toys), and some Toys for Tots detachments spend thousands on storage costs,” Maynard said. “RSD has been amazing since the first day I walked in there. I told them I was from Toys for Tots and their answer was ‘yes’ before I even got through explaining what it was I was hoping to work out.”

Maynard also helps recruit volunteer drivers to pick up donations and maintains important relationships with entities such as LaValley Building Supply, which donates contractor bags for the storage and transportation of toys. While all toys donated locally remain in the Upper Valley, Maynard said, he has helped other groups in the Northeast Kingdom, southern Vermont and New Hampshire’s Lakes Region start their own Toys for Tots operations, some of which receive toy contributions from the organization’s Virginia-based headquarters.

“Some people get upset if they think the toys they donate are going to leave the valley,” Maynard said. “If you make a donation in Claremont, I can’t guarantee it’s going to stay in Claremont, but it’s going to stay in the Upper Valley.”

Maynard humbly defers credit to other longtime volunteers within the program such as Rob Ward, a 20-year Marine veteran from Fairlee who started with the organization the same year Maynard assumed coordinator duties, and 82-year-old former Marine Richard Gallien, of Lebanon.

Ward, 67, is known as “The Grinch” for the way he enforces the organization’s rules. For example, Ward said a grandparent and grandchild “stomped off” on Saturday morning when he pointed to a sign that says grandparents must show proof of guardianship in order to obtain the gifts.

“The problem is that without that, parents and grandparents both come in for toys,” Ward said. “Some people call me The Grinch, I say I’m the head whipping boy.”

Maynard said he loathes playing “toy cop,” even after an experience at a Walmart a few years ago when he saw someone returning toys suspiciously fitting the Toys for Tots bill for store credit at the customer service desk. “I was positive they were Toys for Tots toys, but (a Walmart employee) told me their policy is to accept anything with a barcode that scans into their system,” Maynard said. “The solution is to draw a line through the barcodes, so we have someone do that now.”

Of course, most Toys for Tots patrons are genuinely in need of Christmas toys for their children. Couple Brian and Angela Morton, of Claremont, said they were shopping for four kids on Saturday.

“It’s all about giving our children a good Christmas,” Brian Morton said amid about a dozen midmorning shoppers. “There are so many toys here. A lot of them you can’t even find in stores, and if you can, sometimes they cost 5-10 times more than you want to spend. Plus, the shopping malls are crazy this time of year. People are basically pushing and shoving to get the toys they want. It’s much easier and more relaxed here.”

As for Maynard’s future, he said he doesn’t plan on stepping down from the coordinator post for at least another few years, although recently retired Marine and Hanover resident Warren Coughlin is a strong candidate to replace him.

“I’ll probably start training him next year, but I want to make sure it’s a smooth transition,” Maynard said.

Jared Pendak can be reached at jpendak@vnews.com or 603-727-3216.


Nationally, 97 cents of every dolla r raised by Toys for Tots goes toward purchasing toys. An earlier version of this story incorrectly quoted Upper Valley Toys for Tots coordinator Rick Maynard about where the money goes.

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