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Marines, Salvation Army launch Toys for Tots

By John Andrew Prime, Shreveport Times

1361 days ago   Article ID# 770096
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Toys for Tots

SHREVEPORT , LOUISIANA (Shreveport Times) - With a little help from their friends, local Marine Reservists are engaged in another campaign, the annual battle to gather Toys for Tots.

“We’re behind last year’s totals,” said Major Chris McGuire, head of the I&I staff with Bravo Co., 1/23rd Marines, headquartered in Bossier City.

By mid-week, he said, they’d only gotten about 2,000 toys toward their goal of 10,000 in a drive that started just before Thanksgiving.

There’s a good reason for that: The unit recently sent most of its folks, some 150 men and officers, to the war in Afghanistan.

“We only have nine Marines here left (since) the mobilization, which is really hamstringing us,” McGuire said. “There’s also about a half-dozen civilian volunteers and a half-dozen or so Air Force guys helping us out.”

The toy collection drive ends Dec. 18, with distribution scheduled for Dec. 20-22. Making sure the toys end up with needy families is the job of the Marines’ longtime partners, the Salvation Army, which also is conducting an Angel Tree program.

Marine reservists have been collecting toys for children for six decades, ever since the wife of a major in Los Angeles gave a handmade Raggedy Ann doll to her husband to give to a needy child. Finding no agency willing to help them, his local units collected and distributed toys, and the following year the entire Marine Corps Reserve got involved. Before long, more than 200 communities were involved. Over the years, toys have gone to more than 100 million needy children.

It’s slowly but surely increasing as far as toy donations go.

“We started off kind of slow but now it seems like it’s picking up,” said Staff Sgt. Juan Arias, a Houston veteran who has been with the local unit a little more than a year and has taken part in the toy drives for a decade. “There are more businesses and schools doing collections. We’re constantly getting calls from people who want to donate toys, and we are also getting a lot of requests, even though the registration deadline was over in October.”

People who wish can donate a new, unwrapped toy or cash or a check, he said.

The Marines have been at “Disney on Ice” and for the next few weekends, through toy distribution, will be at the Louisiana Boardwalk outlet of a national Toys for Tots sponsor, Build-a-Bear.

Another national sponsor is J.C. Penney, which has the Salvation Army Angel Tree database online.
People who want to help a specific child can take part in the Angel Tree at the Salvation Army headquarters on East Stoner Avenue, area malls or Walmarts, Salvation Army spokeswoman K.C. Kilpatrick said.

“Toys for Tots is starting to gain some momentum, but the Angel Tree is kind of moving slow,” she said. “We’re trying to get everything in by Dec. 10, so we’re holding our breath a little bit.”

It’s a reflection of community caring, she said.

“Every child needs something, some kind of gesture that shows people care,” she said.
It’s as important for parents too, she said.

“That’s an awful feeling, not being able to provide a Christmas for your children,” she said. “We wanted to take the shame out of that and have them feel the love and support of the community. It’s a blessing to be part of that love.”

Copyright 2014 Shreveport Times   (Copyright Terms)
Updated 1361 days ago   Article ID# 770096

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