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Toys for Tots help make Christmas dreams come true

By Nathan Hanks | Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany | September 30, 2016

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The Toys for Tots Program, for Southwest Georgia, officially kicked off its annual campaign aboard Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany, Sept. 30.  

Gunnery Sgt. Jimmie Smith, coordinator, Toys for Tots, announced in his speech the program’s first event, “stuff the truck,” will be held at Toys R Us in Albany, Georgia, Oct. 1, from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.

He continued by saying the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Program has a very important task.

“The mission of the Toys for Tots Program is to gather new, unwrapped toys during the months of October, November and December, and distribute them as Christmas gifts to less fortunate children in the local community,” Smith said.

He noted those wanting to donate toys can give them to the Marines who will be wearing their dress blue uniform at all events.

“Although Marines have a reputation of being tough, defending freedom and democracy - a duty they have fulfilled with honor, courage and commitment, they too have a gentler side as well,” he added. “(Marines have) a genuine concern for the communities in which they live and a deep compassion for the under-privileged children of America.”

According to Smith, it’s the “gentler” side that exemplifies the spirit of the Marine Corps as well as the U.S. Marine Reserve Toys for Tots Program.

He then explained how the program was formed.

“It all began with a hand crafted toy,” he said. “In 1947, the wife of then-Marine Major Bill Hendricks, made a doll and asked her husband to deliver it to an organization that would present it to a less fortunate child on Christmas day.

“Major Hendricks could not find an agency to provide such a service,” he continued. “To help fill the void, Major Hendricks and members of his Los Angeles Marine Reserve Unit, collected and distributed 5,000 Toys to needy children of Los Angeles (California) during Christmas 1947.”

The following year, the Marine Corps Reserve adopted the program and collected and distributed toys in 74 communities nationwide, Smith said.

Since then, Marines have distributed more than 494,000,000 toys and brought the joy of Christmas, and a message of hope, to more than 230,000,000 children throughout the U.S., according to the coordinator.

Smith then spoke of the program’s results and its impact locally from the 2015 campaign.

“Last year, we collected 36,000 toys and distributed them to (more than) 6,000 children within the local community,” he stated. “My goal this year is to collect more than 45,000 toys. We, the Marines and those who participate in the program, can help make a less fortunate child’s Christmas dream come true.”

Individuals or families wanting to contribute can donate a toy, valued at $20 or less, in a Toys for Tots bin now through Dec. 14.

Collection sites are located around the base and throughout Albany and its surrounding areas.

Participants can find bins located on the installation at buildings 3500 and 3700, Marine Depot Maintenance Command, Marine Corps Exchange and Navy Federal Credit Union.

Off base, Marines in dress blues will accept new, unwrapped toys as well as cash donations at various collection points including the Albany Mall, Wal-Mart in Lee County and Toys R Us, to name a few. There is no cost for businesses to obtain collection bins.

For the last several years, the Toys for Tots Program has teamed up with Albany Salvation Army, according to Smith.

Retired Marine Maj. James R. Edwards, Albany Salvation Army board member, accepted a plaque from Smith for their dedication to the program.

“I want to thank the Marine Corps Reserve and all of those who participate in the Toys for Tots campaign for recognizing there are so many people within this area who do not have the wherewithal to provide for their children or for them to have a joyful Christmas,” Edwards said. “We realize that it is the work of the community, businesses and our friends, who make it possible to serve this community by providing support to those children so desperately in need.”

Edwards thanked the Marine Corps for their partnership with the Salvation Army and challenged those fortunate to help those who are less fortunate once again this year.
Local families can sign up at the Albany Salvation Army, 304 West Second Avenue, Albany, Georgia, through the side door, Oct. 24-28 and Oct. 31 - Nov. 4 from 9 a.m. - 2 p.m. For additional information, call 229-435-1428, extension 14.

Families wanting to participate in the program are expected to meet certain criteria.

Below are several documents families will need to bring with them when they sign up for Toys for Tots, including:

* State-issued picture identification;

* Birth certificates for all children applied for;

* A current food stamp summary in the guardian’s name;

* Current rent receipt and utility bill, both in the guardian’s name;
* Verification of all household income;
* Social Security and Medicare cards for everyone in the household.

The Toys for Tots Program is staffed by the Marine reservists assigned to Detachment 2, Combat Logistics Battalion-453.

Toys for Tots is the Marine Corps’ premier community action program and the only charitable cause within the in the Department of Defense that reaches outside the military establishment to give something back to local communities, according to the 2015 annual report.

For more information about Toys for Tots or how to contribute, call Smith at 229-639-8787 or email him at jimmie.t.smith@usmc.mil.


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