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Most folks are just starting to think about decorating pumpkins, but Bruce Vanden Bos has been focused on Christmas all year.

To learn moreFor information about how to help the Toys for Tots drive go to www.toysfortots.org and click on Maryland, then St. Mary’s County.Marine Corps League Pax River Detachment 1305 will have representatives accepting at Walmart, Dressbarn and Kmart on Nov. 23 and 24, and Dec. 1 and 8.

He’s been raiding toy sales — working closely with Santa, of course — to build a stockpile that could yield tidings of comfort and joy for more than 700 St. Mary’s County families.

“We’re the reason Santa’s able to deliver everything in one day,” Vanden Bos said. “He’s got helpers all over the world.”

Vanden Bos and the Marine Corps League Patuxent River Detachment 1305 are organizing the St. Mary’s County Toys for Tots campaign. It kicks off with a private dinner and will continue with public collections through early December.

Timothy Hoernig, the administrator for Pax River’s Toys for Tots, said he will list dropoff locations on their website this week. For every dollar given, Hoernig said, 97 cents go toward buying new toys.

“Everything collected in St. Mary’s County will stay in St. Mary’s County,” Vanden Bos said.

The campaign is accepting donations from businesses, families, churches and Good Samaritans who just want to make a difference.

There have been people who have discreetly left hefty cash donations, and others who have parked their vans and unloaded carts of toys.

“I got a donation already this year of 11 trash bags of toys from a resident that got her toys from Toys for Tots when she was young and wants to give back,” Vanden Bos said.

In the past two years, Vanden Bos said, Detachment 1305 has distributed 20,925 gifts.

This year, Vanden Bos said, he found “a kickin’ deal” on bike helmets, which are always included with riding toys. Then there was the clearance on skateboards — had to grab a bunch of those. And dolls. He’ll be stocking lots of dolls.

Volunteers — including motorcycle groups and plenty of retired Marines — are scheduled to work in shifts to categorize gifts by type and age and load them on the sleigh for distribution just in time for the holidays.

“Watch out, Santa,” Vanden Bos said. “Here come the Marines!”

nclark@somdnews.com