CUMMING — Corey Coulter has held his birthday at Rooster’s Café for 14 years, but he has never asked for presents for himself.
Instead, Coulter has been using the annual event to collect gifts for U.S. Marine Corps Reserves’ Toys for Tots. Coulter said he wanted to give back after escaping the south tower of the World Trade Center minutes before it was attacked on 9/11.
“I started this back in 2002,” he said Tuesday night. “… I was really happy to have my 39th birthday that year, so I got together with a group of friends and decided to try to find a way of them not brining me presents. And so I came up with the idea of having them donate a toy.”
According to Coulter, the event typically collects toys of varying costs, but he was excited this year to get a record number of bicycles.
“Because they tend to be more expensive, you don’t tend to get as many,” he said. “You get a lot of the $10 or $20 type stuff, and we really need everything. So we have a number of $1 toys and $5 toys in there too, so a broad gamut of things. But the bicycles are always impressive and always in high demand.”
Not surprisingly, the amount of donations has followed the economy, but Coulter was optimistic that the drive would reach last year’s total.
“We’ve had ups and downs over the years … when the economy took its turn for the worst in 2009, the toy collection dropped. In 2008, I was able to get over 1,000 toys, my first time at that,” Coulter said.
“Last year, we’re estimating … about 1,700 toys [came in] and this year we’re well on our way to matching something like that.”
Coulter said all of the toys collected will stay in the area, but there was still a big need.
“When you start looking at the logistics of shipping toys around the country it just doesn’t make sense, so they do keep the toys in the Atlanta and metro area,” Coulter said.
“Unfortunately with all the toys we are able collect, and all the toys the Marine Corps is able to collect, it’s still not enough to service the area. They still end up short, which is a sad fact, but we’ll do everything we can.”
The toy collection will continue until Dec. 19. Collection boxes can be found at: Rooster’s, 216 Atlanta Road in Cumming; City Growler, 214 Atlanta Road; Big Frog Custom T-Shirts, 1070 Market Place Blvd.; and Pizzeria Azzurri, 3560 Browns Bridge Road, No. 1200.