A holiday tradition is underway in Iowa that was started by the U.S. Marine Corps in 1947 to help provide Christmas gifts to children of soldiers who were killed during World War Two.

Retired General Pete Osman is CEO for the Marine Corps’ Toys for Tots program. Some 110,000 Iowa children are living in poverty, 15 million kids nationwide, and Osman says the numbers grow every year.

“Of course, you add on top of that the natural disasters that have happened this last year, the hurricanes that hit Florida and Houston and certainly Puerto Rico, and the ongoing wildfires in California,” Osman says, “those all increase demand and not only increase demand but also affect the donor base.”

Iowans are being urged to contribute however they can, through donating toys, cash or their time. Osman says it’s easy to take part, especially if you’re already going to be out shopping. “Buy an additional toy or two, buy a book and drop it in one of our barrels. That’s how you can principally help,” he says. “Go to our website, which is toysfortots.org, and push the ‘donate’ button. It’ll tell you how you can make an online donation that’ll stay local so you can help your local coordinator buy additional toys.”

All donations made in Iowa stay in Iowa and they typically go to children in the community where the donation was made. “It’s the generosity of the public that makes it work,” Osman says. “Americans are really generous and, believe me, the need that we have this year is very genuine. If you haven’t bought that toy yet, please, go out there and do that. That new unwrapped toy is going to help bring the joy of Christmas and send a message of hope to one of America’s less-fortunate children.”

Volunteers are also needed to help sort toys by age and gender at the charity’s warehouses at several locations in Iowa.

(Thanks to Karla James, Omaha)