MARINE CORPS LOGISTICS BASE ALBANY, Ga. -- For those who plan to help with Toys for Tots this year, it's just about time to board the train. Literally.
The MCLB Albany Inspector-Instructor Staff is working to help raise awareness of the need for toys by constructing a 'model' train.
"It's going to be a symbol," said Staff Sgt. Marc Robicheaux. "Whenever someone drives by it, they will recognize it immediately and say, 'hey, that's Toys for Tots!'"
The annual Toys for Tots drive will kick off in mid-November. Anyone who wishes to register may do so then.
According to Robicheaux, everyone in the area who needs help this Christmas is invited to register - both Marines and civilians.
"A lot of times, pride gets in the way," said Robicheaux. "People don't want to register because they think people will look down on them. But what they need to remember is that Christmas is not about their pride, it's about the children and the spirit of giving."
Robicheaux added that people need to remember that the Toys for Tots Program is intended to add to a family Christmas, not replace it.
Robicheaux said anyone who wishes to register must bring at least one form of identification and some form of documentation of their need for financial assistance.
"Some people have brought in divorce papers, showing they were a single parent and were having a tough time supporting their children. Others have brought in bankruptcy papers and things of that nature," said Robicheaux. Assistance for people without proof of their need will be determined on a case-by-case basis.
Anyone who wants to donate toys may do so from about mid-November to mid-December. The reason for the cut-off date is to ensure volunteers have the time necessary to sort the gifts by age, gender, race and religion.
Businesses are also encouraged to donate toys or money to the program. Robicheaux said businesses can support building the train as well. The names of businesses that contribute to the construction the train's will be placed on a sign that will travel everywhere with the train, thus providing relatively free advertising for their company. That way, both the Toys for Tots Program and the business will benefit.
The train is approximately 22 ft. long, 4 ft. wide and 8 ft. high. Although it is not yet completed, the I&I Staff are excited about it. The train will feature an engine, three a coal car and a caboose, thereby giving the public a visual image related to Toys for Tots. It will also provide a safe place to store toys when toy drives are held in open places.
The train is not self-powered, but will be pulled as a 'float' in Albany's Celebration of Lights Christmas Parade on Dec. 7, beginning at 6 p.m., said Robicheaux. While it is traveling down the parade stretch, Marines will be on board to collect toys for the drive, and pass out paraphernalia such as cups, pens and stickers.
"We've put about 250 man hours into this project," said Robicheaux, who has a wife and three children of his own. "The look in a child's eyes when you've helped give them Christmas is overwhelming."
For more information, call Gunnery Sgt. Edanjarlo Rivera of the local I&I Staff at 639-5475.