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Local tattoo studio: County’s largest Toys for Tots site

By Kendra Caruso | Dec 02, 2019
Photo by: Kendra Caruso Joshua Ard tattoos a patron Nov. 30 in his Permanent Expressions studio in Belfast, where he collects Marine Corps Toys for Tots donations.

Belfast — Joshua Ard has been accepting Marine Corps Toys for Tots gifts at his Permanent Expressions tattoo studio in Belfast for 10 years. He’s become the largest donor site in Waldo County, he said.

He matches the price of the donation with a gift card to his studio that is twice the toy's value up to $20, so someone who donates a $20 toy will get a $40 certificate. However, Ard says there are a lot of people who don’t ask for the gift card but donate just to participate in the charity.

“I figured if I just gave something back, it would just serve more as a reminder,” Ard said. “You know, people want to do it anyways.”

The Thorndike native started the incentive as a way to entice locals into giving more so there was not just an empty box sitting in his studio. He said donations have grown every year.

There are so many contributions that local Toys for Tots representatives have to make more than one trip to pick them up, because his shop is drowning in donations. He spoke at a Nov. 19 City Council meeting about getting more businesses in downtown to participate and absorb some of the donations.

“It would be a good friendly competition to have, I believe,” Ard said.

Though he receives many toy donations, Ard said there are never quite enough to go around. Most of the donations are distributed locally through churches and other community organizations.

Ard likes the organization because the program does not solicit cash, but accepts only toys. He thinks it makes the program more trustworthy and offers more comfort to those who are nervous that a cash donation might not go to the right place.

“Sometimes the money you’re giving goes to different places,” he said. “… There’s no CEOs getting paid with Legos or anything, you know.”

Toys for Tots was begun in 1947 by Marine Corps Reserve Maj. Bill Hendricks upon his wife's request to help low-income families give Christmas gifts to their kids. He solicited donations from celebrities in Los Angeles and even had the logo made by Walt Disney, according to the Marine Toys for Tots website. In 1991 it became a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit charity.

The foundation provides an average of 18 million toys to 7 million children nationally and 620 children in Waldo County, according to its website. It has a gift program for Native Americans and a national literacy program.

Having grown up in a low-income household, Ard remembers some holidays when he received no gifts. He had to work in the summer for much of what he had. Now, the father of four does not like the idea of any child waking up without a present on Christmas.

Ard would love to see Belfast become the city that donates the most toys to the program in Maine. He wants more local businesses to band together to provide Christmas presents for children.

Toys are collected Thursday, Dec. 12, but Ard accepts donations until the local Toys for Tots representative collects the box from his shop. Information about other locations accepting Toys for Tots gifts can be found here.

The Waldo County coordinator is CHRISTmas is for Kids through Crossroads to Calvary Church in Morrill. For inquiries about donations or toy requests, call 342-4044 or email

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Comments (2)
Posted by: Ralph Stanley | Dec 02, 2019 19:51

Thank you.

Posted by: Patricia A Pendergast | Dec 02, 2019 18:50

Josh walks his talk. He is a member of the Thorndike Selectboard as well. He works real hard and is a kind, principled and thoughtful man.



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