ROUSES POINT - The U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Train is headed north this Christmas.
For more than 10 years, Sharon Ramsey has sent people down to Plattsburgh from Rouses Point to gather toys from the Toys for Tots train to help the people of the North Country, on behalf of St. Patrick's Church.
This year, however, the train will be going to Rouses Point instead, this Sunday, Dec. 5, at 4:30 p.m.
"They had called and they were very disappointed. They go, 'I'm sorry we're not stopping in Plattsburgh' and I go 'Well ,where are you stopping?' And they go, 'Well, Rouses Point,' and I said, 'That's okay, that's right up the street from me," recalled Ramsey.
Marine Gunnery Sgt. Albert Roman, the Albany-area coordinator of Toys for Tots, said the decision to change the stops was based on feedback from local nonprofit organizations.
"It was more convenient to hit more people in Rouses Point than stopping in Plattsburgh," said Roman. "We'll be able to reach out to more people by just moving 30 minutes up north and not conflict with anybody."
Though that may potentially be a concern for people in the Plattsburgh area, Ramsey noted many people have traveled from the Northern Tier in years past, often returning home in bad weather conditions.
"If there's a blizzard Sunday, then they only have to go about seven miles," she said.
Regardless, Ramsey said people are still looking forward to the train's arrival. And, although Ramsey typically doesn't go to meet the train herself, she has heard it is quite exciting.
"The train pulls up, and I guess the Marines are there and they have little forms and they just call out the names and I guess there's kids there and they give them toys and sometimes Santa's there," she explained. "It's quite a big to-do."
St. Patrick's Church volunteers typically receive about 50-60 toys from the train, which are in turn distributed to various families in the area.
"It's to anybody," said Ramsey. "We kind of want to keep them in this end of the North Country. You can be from Alburg, you can be from Morrisonville, I don't care."
Another way in which St. Patrick's Church helps the people of the North Country is through their annual Christmas Party. This year's event will be held in the church's basement, Sunday, Dec. 12, from 1-3 p.m.
"We have a rummage sale in the spring and some of that money goes towards this toy party," said Ramsey, who organizes the event. "Eventually, by the end of the season we usually provide between 200 to 300 toys on our own to local kids."
The party, which usually sees about 100 kids, will give out a gift to each child, who will also get to spend time with Santa Claus.
"We want to see as many kids as we can," said Ramsey. "We definitely will have toys for at least the first 200 kids."
Although St. Patrick's Church is involved in the Christmas Party and Toys for Tots, it is not a requirement to be Catholic in order to receive a gift. For more information, contact the church at 297-7361.
Editor Jeremiah S. Papineau contributed to this report.