MARINES CORPS LOGISTICS BASE ALBANY, GA --
When a record audience attended the Battle Color Ceremony at the Albany James H. Gray Sr. Civic Center Oct. 15, they brought with them a record number of toys to donate for the kick-off the 2009 Toys for Tots campaign.
“The community response at the Battle Color ceremony was absolutely fantastic. We had 1,077 toys dropped off that night,” said Gunnery Sgt. Jeremy L. French, Toys for Tots coordinator for the Southwest Georgia campaign. “That was substantially more than last year’s kick-off.”
During the 2008 Toys for Tots campaign in Southwest Georgia, more than 27,000 toys were distributed to needy children in the 11 counties in the region it served.
While the nation is still in the clinches of an economic downturn, requests for service may increase this year. Anyone wanting to request assistance from Toys for Tots must make an application through the Salvation Army in Albany, Ga.
“Registration for Toys for Tots got underway Oct. 26 and concludes Nov. 6, from 9 a.m. - 1 p.m. at the Salvation Army Office at 214 West Broad Avenue in downtown Albany,” French said. “We won’t know the level of need until the registration is completed, but I think it will be at least the same level as last year.”
Toys for Tots is a needs-based program and applicants must demonstrate their need when registering to be considered for the program.
“We want to make sure the neediest kids are the ones who receive help from Toys for Tots,” French explained.
A recent economic poverty report ranked Albany as one of the most impoverished cities in the nation by size, which could add to the number of requests for help from Toys for Tots this year.
The report, from the American Community Service, indicated poverty in Albany is among the worst in the country, and it’s only expected to get worse.
It stated that the Albany metro area of Dougherty, Lee, Baker, Terrell and Worth Counties have a per capita income of $21,000, far less than half the U.S. median income. The bottom 20 percent is only surviving on about $8,000 per year.
“If the people of Southwest Georgia kick in this year like they did last year, I’m sure we can make Christmas a little brighter for a lot of kids who need help,” French said.
A new event in the campaign this year will be “Stuff a Truck,” where Marine Corps seven-ton trucks will be placed around the Albany area for a weekend drive to urge donors to help “Stuff a Truck” with new, unwrapped toys for the campaign.
Other activities planned to support Toys for Tots include a golf tournament. A list of events centered on the Southwest Georgia Toys for Tots campaign may be viewed at the website www.totsfortots.org, then scroll to ‘Georgia’ and click on the ‘Albany’ campaign.
Individuals wishing to donate to Toys for Tots may do so on-line at the website and also submit suggestions for fund-raising ideas to support Toys for Tots. Successful past programs included office holiday parties, where participants brought a toy to donate.
“If someone does that, we’ll send out a Marine in dress blues to pick up the toys,” French said.
2009 is the 62nd year the Marine Corps has conducted a Toys for Tots program, which began in Los Angeles. Now, more than 750 local campaigns are conducted all across America.