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 BUFFALO, N.Y., Nov. 1 /PRNewswire/ -- It is an 800 number guaranteed to provide millions of smiles.
 Effective today, the new MCI/Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots hotline (800-866-3363) is in service, marking the start of a unique fundraising effort that is expected to provide a huge boost to the 46th annual campaign to provide toys for needy children this holiday season.
 It is the first use of 800 service for Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots campaign fundraising, and represents one of the most advanced uses of 800 technology for charitable giving.
 "This is the first time 800 service is being used in a national fundraising campaign to track the origin of the donations and return that money back to that same community," said Phil Mistretta, director of promotions for the Amherst, N.Y.-based Marine Toys for Tots Foundation. "Our efforts with MCI -- one of our national sponsors -- have in effect opened up a whole new market for us. We now have a simple way to allow people who didn't have time or physically were unable to donate toys to contribute money that will purchase toys for needy children in their community."
 Combined with widespread promotional support from the country music industry, officials have high hopes that the hotline will help the Marine Corps Reserve collect the more than eight million toys needed for this year's campaign.
 "The number of children in need has never been greater," Mistretta said. "We have more hardships this year due to the economic conditions and natural disasters such as the Midwest flooding. The Marine Corps Reserve is working harder than ever before to ensure that every child has a gift to open this Christmas."
 The network intelligence supporting MCI's advanced 800 Enhanced Call Router service is making this easy-to-use fundraising line possible.
 Upon dialing 800-866-3363, callers are greeted by the voice of recording legend Charlie Daniels, who explains the menu choices available to persons wanting to place donations using cash or credit card, or those who wish to speak to an operator. The voices of country music stars Lorrie Morgan and Doug Supernaw also assist callers using this automated system.
 "All information needed for callers to place a donation is gathered by advanced voice response technology that will prompt callers to provide responses to a series of predetermined questions," said Kevin Bennis, senior vice president of Marketing for MCI Business Markets. "This network-based functionality will allow the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation to efficiently track and handle the important calls that will come in from all over the United States."
 "The beauty of this system," said Marine Toys for Tots Foundation's Mistretta, "is that the MCI intelligent network provides us the detail on where every call is coming from, so that we are able to return the cash donations directly to the nearest local Marine Corps Reserve unit for the purchase of toys for children in that area."
 Mistretta explained that this system provides three key benefits:
 -- Assures donors that their money will be put to use in their local community;
 -- Boost local economies, since Marines will use the donations to purchase toys locally to supplement their toy drives; and
 -- Allows Marines to purchase toys locally to supplement any shortfalls that their own toy drives may experience, such as age and gender gaps.
 "In developing this program, we spoke to MCI and a few other carriers to figure out how best to do it," Mistretta said. "MCI came through with flying colors. They said they could make this whole thing work and they did."
 The 800-866-3363 number will be featured prominently in an unprecedented promotional program implemented by the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation, formed in 1991 to conduct nationwide public awareness and fundraising programs to support each of the local Marine Corps Reserve unit's efforts.
 Centerpiece of this effort will be their first-ever nationwide Country Music Radiothon, expected to be carried by hundreds of stations in early December. "This has been a huge commitment made on the part of the country music industry, and we're thrilled with its support," Mistretta said.
 Radio spots from scores of country music recording stars will be broadcast by the participating radio stations, soliciting support for the Toys for Tots campaign via calls to the 800 hotline. Public service announcements also have been sent to television and radio stations nationwide promoting this year's campaign and the MCI Toys for Tots hotline.
 Separately, national sponsor MCI is bringing its "MCI Friends and Family Holiday Tour" to 10 cities across the U.S. to raise critical awareness of this fundraising effort.
 MCI Business Markets, formed as MCI Business Services in August 1992, is based in Atlanta and provides long distance voice, data and video telecommunications to America's businesses. The largest operating unit in the MCI family, Business Markets recently launched Proof Positive, an industry innovation that established a new benchmark in the way long distance service is provided and savings proven to customers.
 MCI Communications Corporation, headquartered in Washington D.C., was incorporated in 1968 and was the first company authorized by the FCC to compete with AT&T in the domestic long distance market. Today, MCI is an $11 billion enterprise offering a full range of domestic and global telecommunications services through one of the world's largest sophisticated networks. The company is the second-largest provider in the U.S. and has more than 60 overseas offices in 55 nations.
 -0- 11/1/93
 /CONTACT: Rick Aspan of MCI, 312-938-4732; or Phil Mistretta of Toys for Tots Foundation, 716-836-4090/

CO: MCI Telecommunications Corp.; Toys for Tots Foundation ST: New York, Illinois IN: TLS SU:

DB-CP -- MN014 -- 9194 11/01/93 13:32 EST
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Publication:PR Newswire
Date:Nov 1, 1993

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