Employees at Rotek in Aurora have made a record-setting donation to the Marine Corps Reserves’ Toys for Tots program this holiday season.   

Leading the way were about 35 members of the USW Local 8565 working in the company’s bearing plant, one of several Aurora divisions of the company competing to collect the most toys. 

Kay Byler, corporate human resource manager, said it’s easily the largest haul of toys donated in more than 20 years of donations by Rotek to Toys for Tots. She said Rotek employee Rich Waller was a key to this year’s successful drive. She said there was no way any other department would be able to catch up with the donations made by the bearing plant employees, who filled eight boxes about the size of 30-gallon trash cans.

"We’re fortunate to have gainful employment and be able to do stuff like this," said Waller. "Everyone’s generosity has been awesome."

Marcus Graves, USW 8565 president, also agreed this year’s donations were the most generous he could remember.

"Last year, we donated a lot, but this year, there were tons of toys," he said.

Waller helped by buying the gifts, enabling a variety of donors to just give cash.

"At the end of the day, with the friendly competition we have, the kids are really the winners," said Waller. "The kids deserve it. This is for people who don’t have a lot. One of our members is in a bowling league at Spins Lanes, and he brought in a lot of donations for us in the shop."

While some might have trouble finding time to shop for toys, Waller said he enjoyed it.

"I got to be Santa’s helper for a few weeks," he said. "I took my niece and nephew with me on several occasions. Having their input was really good to help get current toys."

If left to his own devices, Waller joked the toy haul might have been a little Star Wars heavy.

By using the cash donated to shop, Waller said he freed people to donate who may not have toys to give away or who may not wish to go toy shopping. 

Graves said it would be "cool to see where they went," but the Marine Corps Reserves don’t track donations to recipients. 

"It’s just something to bring a smile to your face when you come to work," he said. 

Reporter Bob Gaetjens can be reached at 330-541-9440, bgaetjens@recordpub.com or @bobgaetjens_rpc.